Green Eyed Monster
Chapter 12: "A Breech Of Friendship"
By Bill K.
"So, Mother, what do you think?" Ami asked.
The two women were in a bare apartment, their words echoing slightly against the emptiness. Ami's mother gave the place one more look with her practiced, critical eye - - the one Ami ruefully recalled from a hundred report cards and placement tests.
"It seems a little pricey," she commented.
"I'm willing to pay a little extra for the convenience," Ami replied, standing her ground. "This apartment is centrally located between the hospital, the park in Juuban and Hikawa Shrine, as well as several excellent entertainment venues and the university medical library."
"Well, I hate it," Kaname replied cooly. Then she softened. "But only because it means you won't be living with me any longer." The doctor scowled. "Oh, that's SO irrational!"
"But appreciated," Ami leaned in and pecked her mother on the cheek. "And feel free to visit whenever you feel like. You're always welcome here." Ami grew a devilish smirk. "You can even borrow it for a lunchtime tryst with some handsome man."
"That's your father coming out in you," Kaname replied with a frosty manner.
"I can't help it," Ami twittered. "I am an amalgamation, after all."
"So," her mother began, changing the subject, "tomorrow's your first day of internship. Nervous?"
"Yes," Ami answered. "In a way, it's like how I felt the first day of middle school. I knew I could do the work. I just don't know if I can fit in."
Kaname gathered her daughter into her arms.
"You'll fit in," she whispered in her daughter's ear. "But if you do ever need a shoulder to lean on, you know where to find me - - and you have your father's phone number, too. Don't ever feel you can't call one of us." The two women clung to one another for a few moments before Kaname finally pulled back. "Now if you're not doing anything, how about we go shopping."
"Shopping?" Ami queried.
"Yes," her mother smiled at the question. "You're going to need furniture, dear."
"Mother, I can buy my own furniture," Ami protested.
"Nonsense. You're a struggling young doctor. I remember how tight finances can be in that instance." Ami was about to protest further, but her mother cut her off. "Ami, I can certainly afford to do this more than you can. I have more money than I know what to do with now. It's only logical."
"But . . ."
"I won't hear of another word on the subject."
Ami sighed with frustration. "Yes, Mother"
With the breakfast dishes in the rack drying, Mamoru collected his briefcase and headed for the door. Before he left, though, he peeked into the living room where Usagi's drawing table sat next to the window looking out over their particular corner of the city. Usagi sat there, just as she had when he got up and when he showered and when he made breakfast. On her taboret next to her table, amid her box of pencils, her cup full of brushes, and an open bottle of india ink, was a half full glass of protein shake and a bag of jelly candies. That usually made up Usagi's meals when she was on deadline.
"Did you get any sleep at all?" Mamoru tossed out gently.
"A little," Usagi said sheepishly without looking at him.
"She fell asleep at her board for about two hours," Luna added reproachfully. "You can tell by the pencil smudges on her forehead."
"NOBODY LIKES A RAT-FINK, LUNA!" Usagi bellowed. Mamoru grinned and glanced at the black cat. He found her grinning, too.
"How are you coming?" he asked, leaning over her shoulder and watching the penciled figure of the Love Sorceress darken with the black lines of india ink.
"If I don't have to go to the bathroom anytime before four, I should just make it," Usagi replied, keeping her concentration on her brush stroke. "Thank you for making breakfast for us both, Mamo-chan."
"It's the least I can do," Mamoru replied. "We're partners. Partners help each other out. I still recall a certain exotic dance my partner did for me when I was about ready to burn out from intern hours. And all the other things she's done to support me during my work." He glanced at the bag of candy. "Although I wish you'd taken me up on my offer of something more nutritious."
Usagi smiled at the memory of the night her husband recalled. As she dipped her brush in the inkwell, Mamoru reached down and brought the protein shake to her. Allowing herself a moment to glance for the straw, Usagi captured it and took a big gulp.
"Thank you," she said. "I wish the straw was longer."
"Just making sure you drank that and not the ink by mistake, Odango Atama," Mamoru jabbed.
"Don't you have patients to annoy?" Usagi volleyed back with a cynical grin.
"Yes, I do," Mamoru sighed and headed for the door. Before he left, though, he glanced back one last time at his wife. "But annoying you is much more fun." He didn't see the happy glow his wife took on.
About twenty minutes later, the phone rang.
"Luna, could you get that?" Usagi shouted as she ruled the panel borders for the last page she had to pencil for this assignment.
"Naturally," the black cat sniffed. She answered the phone by the third ring. "It's Makoto, Usagi. Shall I tell her you're occupied?"
"No!" Usagi gasped. "Can you bring the phone over to the drawing table?"
"For the fiftieth time, the cord will not reach!" fussed Luna.
"OHHHHHHH!" Usagi fumed. Tearing herself away from her board, she snatched the phone from Luna and pressed it to her ear. "I'm here, Mako-chan. What is it?"
"You talk to Rei or Blondie lately?" Makoto asked.
"I talked to Rei night before last. She still won't talk to Mina-chan," Usagi reported. "I did everything I could, but she won't budge! And you know how stubborn she is!"
"Yeah," Makoto agreed. "Blondie can be just as stubborn, too. It's been what, a week now? Well I've been thinking about this - - when you're rocking babies to sleep, you get a lot of time to think - - and I think I might just have a way to break them both down. When are you free?"
"I've got a four p.m. deadline that I HAVE to make, but anytime after that."
"OK, I can work with that. I'll call Ami and see what her schedule is, then we can get together and see if I've actually got a brilliant plan or if I'm full of it. Call you."
Usagi hung up the phone and stared down hopefully at it.
"I'm here, guys!" Minako gasped breathlessly as she ran from the steps of Hikawa Shrine down the stone path toward the temple itself. "What's up?"
"We'll tell you inside," Usagi replied. Minako looked at her. Usagi seemed to be trying to be grave and solemn, but Minako noticed that she couldn't seem to keep the corners of her mouth from turning up.
"So what is it now?" the blonde asked. "It was quiet for years. Now more trouble right after that demon? We're not being invaded again, are we?"
"Nothing like that," Ami told her. But she refused to make eye contact, something Ami always did when she was hiding something. Now Minako knew something was up.
Maybe they had some sort of surprise party planned for her. That was a thought that appealed to her.
Rei met them at the door. She was calm and professional as one would expect from a veteran senshi like she was. But they all noticed she avoided looking at Minako. The five women headed for their unofficial meeting room.
"So what's up?" Rei asked when they were all seated. "I haven't had any premonitions."
"Well it's something real important," Makoto told them. "Something vital to the safety of humanity and - - a possible threat to this team." Everyone leaned in, hanging on her every word. "We think you two need to stop being mad at each other."
Rei's eyes bulged. Minako, though, couldn't conceal a grin.
"Good one," she nodded. "You guys really suckered me in. I'm going to have to remember this."
"YOU GOT US TOGETHER FOR THAT?" roared Rei. "You made it sound like the world was in danger!"
"Well, we want you two to be friends again!" Usagi howled tearfully.
"Yeah and it was the only way to get you both in the same room," Makoto added.
"Haven't you carried this past any productive point, Rei?" Ami asked.
"It's not that simple!" snapped Rei.
"No, you're that simple," scowled Minako.
"GET OUT!" Rei snarled.
"Reiiiiiiii!" Usagi cried.
"Excuse me," Rei replied stonily. She turned her back and headed for the door. Minako shrugged and headed for the other door.
"That's it," Makoto grumbled suddenly. She reached out and seized Rei by the wrist.
"Hey!" Rei howled. "What are you doing? Let go!"
Before anyone could act, Makoto snatched hold of Minako's wrist. The two women firmly in her control, Makoto began dragging them to one of the shrine's ante-rooms.
"Makoto!" bellowed Minako. "I've only got two of those, you know!"
"Mako-chan!" cried Usagi.
"Relax, Usagi," Makoto said evenly, but firmly. "Ever since I had Akiko, I've been reading up on the care and discipline of children." Forcing the door open with her foot, Makoto first shoved Minako into the room and then Rei. "There! Now start making up, you two! Because neither one of you is getting out of this room until you're friends again!"
"But Mako-chan," Usagi pleaded, "what if they don't make up?"
"Then I guess we'll have to get rid of the bodies," Makoto replied. The door closed on Usagi's squeal of alarm.
Left alone, with only their ill feelings between them, the two women lapsed into an awkward silence. And, of course, silence was one thing Minako Aino just couldn't abide.
"I'm sorry," Minako began contritely. "I suppose this IS my fault."
"You suppose?" Rei inquired, an eyebrow raised.
"OK, I saw you get a lucky break and I went a little nuts! I'm sorry!"
"A little nuts? You hurt me, Minako! Those things you said hurt! I didn't intentionally sabotage anything of yours!"
"I know! I'm sorry! Forgive me!" snapped Minako.
"It's not that simple!" roared Rei.
Rei glared at her.
"I thought you were a priest," Minako continued. "I thought priests didn't carry grudges. I thought they were supposed to understand, to show great wisdom and guide people spiritually, not punish them. Something change when I wasn't looking?"
Rei stared, stunned, at the floor. Minako's words had caught her completely off guard. If Minako had hit her between the eyes with a mallet, she couldn't have stunned the woman any more. Numbly Rei sought a pillow on the floor and sat down.
"You're right," Rei said softly, absently. "That is what I'm supposed to be. 'Humble is the servant of the gods in everything he does. That is the path to true enlightenment.' Grandpa used to tell me that all the time. I guess I heard him all these years without really listening to him." Rei snorted derisively. "He must really be ashamed of me now."
Minako sat down across a table from her.
"It's 'The Glamorous Life'," the blonde smiled reassuringly. "It can make you nuts. Believe me, I know." Minako ducked her head down slightly and looked up at Rei. "So - - friends again?"
Rei's glanced averted.
"Oh, come on!" Minako howled.
"Rei, we both know Makoto!" Minako persisted. "She's not going to let us out of here until we make up! If I've got to spend the night here, I'm not going to be happy! I have an urgent need to snuggle tonight and I'd MUCH rather do it with Toshi-chan than you!"
"You're not making this any easier, Screwball," Rei said through clenched teeth. Then she sighed in frustration. "Oh, you're not worth stress lines. Friends again."
"Excellent," Minako nodded in triumph. She was about to leave - - then her curiosity got the better of her. "So," she ventured cautiously, "how's it feel being Japan's newest hot model?"
"I wouldn't know," Rei responded.
Minako gave her a fisheye look.
"I didn't go back," Rei added.
"They didn't like your trial shoot?" the blonde woman asked, hating herself for the elation she was feeling. "Hey, that's going to happen. Not everybody has what it takes."
"Oh, they liked it," Rei told her with annoyance. "They offered me a contract. I turned it down."
"TURNED IT DOWN? ARE YOU NUTS?"
"I must be," the priest replied acidly, "since I consider you a friend."
"You turned down a modeling contract? With The Kano Agency?"
"Do you know how many women would sacrifice their whole families on a stone altar just to get a modeling contract with The Kano Agency?"
"No," Rei said, eyebrow raised disdainfully. "How many?"
"Well a lot of people are fools," Rei sneered. She glanced cynically at Minako. "Of course, you'd never stoop so low, being 'the professional' you are."
"Are you kiddng? I'd sacrifice ME on an alter to get a modeling contract with them!"
"Once again your depth of character shines brightly."
"Oh, cut the crap!" snapped Minako. "You had stars in your eyes when you went into their office building! And then you just walk away? I don't get it!"
"Because you forget one thing," Rei told Minako, calmly but with an undertone of growing impatience. "Not everyone shares your value system. I didn't spend my childhood dreaming of waltzing down a runway while fashion mavens drooled over me. I had other ambitions. I only tried this because the thought of a photographer spending half a day telling me how beautiful I was - - has a certain appeal. And I could definitely use the money!"
"I get it," Minako grinned knowingly. "You gave it up because you knew I was having trouble dealing with it. Oh, Rei, that's sweet - - but stupid! Don't worry about me! Go back and sign that contract!"
"Don't flatter yourself," Rei snickered. "I walked away because it didn't interest me."
"Sure," grinned Minako.
"I did, you bubble-head!" snapped Rei. "Sure, wearing pretty clothes and feeling glamorous has its appeal, but they tell you how to stand, where to stand, how to look, what to wear, when to move. I felt like a life-sized fashion doll instead of a human. Who needs it? I'd rather be president of the company that SELLS the fashions. If I can't be that, I'd rather be a priest."
"I don't understand you at all," Minako replied, shaking her head.
"Well I understand you all too well," Rei countered. Then she softened. "And I guess deep down I suppose I know how painful it's been for you. It was sort of like what I went through when Mamoru picked Usagi over me. You want to be happy for them, but deep down you can't help but think 'so what's wrong with me?'"
"Yeah," Minako said softly.
"The fact that he chose me over you isn't a slight on your looks or talent," Rei continued. Then she grew a wicked grin. "He just preferred sophisticated brunette over dizzy blonde."
Minako grew a sly smile. "Is that the kind of warmth and compassion they taught you in priest school? If so, I'd get my money back if I were you." The blonde then sobered. "It's kind of scary how that one little act sent me into that big of a tail spin. This business does make you crazy."
"I can imagine getting turned down so often can affect even someone with your unlimited confidence," Rei offered. "You're going to make it, Minako. Remember what I told you back in high school. My predictions aren't wrong."
"It'd be just my luck if I was your first time," Minako sighed. Rei looked at her sympathetically.
"Anything cooking at the moment, career-wise?" she asked.
Minako shrugged. "Toshi and I had an appointment with a casting agent - - the day we beat that demon, in fact. I had to miss it because I kind of had a previous engagement, you know."
"Couldn't you get it rescheduled?" Rei asked.
"We tried," Minako shrugged. "Some casting directors don't take being snubbed very well."
Rei seemed genuinely hurt for her, but said nothing more. They both knew the sacrifices a senshi had to make sometimes.
"I'm making the rounds at clubs looking for singers - - and passing around audition DVD's again. And my agent is looking at scripts. He sent me one yesterday, but I haven't read it yet. I don't even know when the audition is."
"Do you at least know what it's about?"
"He told me it's about a girl from rural Okinawa who comes to Tokyo to make her fame and fortune in show-biz, and the struggles she has to go through to make it big," Minako told her. "At least I can act from experience on that one, huh?"
"What's it called?"
"I think he said the title was 'Island Princess'."
"Island - - Princess?" Rei asked. She had a momentary far away look, like she'd seen something out of her forgotten past - - or Minako's.
"Yeah," Minako nodded curiously. Rei returned to reality.
"You might want to read that one," Rei told her, "soon."
Rei reached out and captured Minako's hand. She looked the woman right in the eye.
"Trust me," the priest said with an eerie grin.