"Tenten, we have something very important to discuss. Could you join us in the living room please?"
"Sure, Dad," I replied, wondering what he could possibly want. This wasn't going to be a "your mother and I are getting divorced" speech, I knew. My parents were so anti-divorce it wasn't funny.
I'd just gotten home on a Friday and changed out of my school uniform in favor of something more comfortable. Upon my father's request, I stopped combing my hair and walked to the living room, where my mother already sat, a serious look on her face. It was unreadable, so I couldn't tell if this was going to be good news or bad.
I flopped down into the armchair and propped my feet up on the coffee table, waiting for my father to sit as well. He took a seat on the couch next to my mother. They looked at each other before looking back at me.
"So what is this about?" I asked, looking form my father to my mother and back again. I popped the gum I was chewing.
"Uh, well..." my mother began, her voice unsure, but steady all the same. "Tenten, do you understand marriage?"I just blinked dumbly at them.
"Sure. It's a consensual, legal union of two people who are madly in love." I rattled off an idea of the definition of marriage was, and I sounded like the dictionary, I'm sure. My parents stared wide-eyed at my response, disbelieving.
"Well, that's one way to put it." My father said, chuckling and scratching his head. "But there's one word in that sentence that could be considered...um...operative."
"Madly?" I asked. My father only shook his head.
"I was thinking more along the lines of 'consensual'." I thought about that for a moment.
"But if it's not consensual, then it's not really about love, is it? Without love, then it's just a legal union of two people. Yuck." I wrinkled my nose in distaste. My parents exchanged another look. About then, I started to wonder what the point of thatquestion really was.
"Mom, what is this about?" I asked again. The first time, it hadn't been answered. My folks were hesitant. "Mom?" She didn't look at me. "Dad?" Neither could he.
Oh my god, this WAS a "we're getting a a divorce" speech. Suddenly, I felt my mother's hand on my knee.
"Tenten," she said, finally looking me in the eye. "You're fifteen now. I think you should know the truth, and I'm going to be straight with you. "
"You see, when you were born..." she had to stop for a moment. "When you were born, our family made an...agreement...with another family." She stopped, looking at me meaningfully, hoping I'd pick up on the hints. I kept my face as blank as my mind. "Tenten, you're engaged." I let that sink in for a moment, looking down at my hands, which had gone limp in my lap.
"Oh," I said quietly, and I noticed the surprise in my parents' faces. I could tell they were prepared for a full-out hissy fit. Once they let down their guard, though, I stood up and screamed.
I got 'em good.
"Tenten...Tenten, come out!"
"Can't we at least talk about this?"
"There's nothing to talk about!" I screamed back.
The pillow I had buried my face in muffled my sobs. But seriously, how COULD they? I was their only daughter, and they had practically sold me off --to someone I didn't even know--at birth! They treated me like property--which, granted, I was--but still! I was a person!
And seriously, who did arranged marriages anymore? that was just so...
"UGH!" I screamed and punched my pillow. When I lifted my face, I could see the mascara that stained the white pillowcase, meaning it was all over my face as well. Sniffling, I padded into my bathroom. The mirror told me all I needed to know.
I got out my facial soap and started scrubbing, soon all traces of makeup and tears were gone, leaving only my plain face. I put on some new mascara, making sure it was waterproof. I promised myself I wouldn't cry anymore.
I popped another CD in the player. Jojo's voice soon filled the room. I plopped back down onto my bed, sitting cross-legged and hugging my pillow to my chest as the lyrics flowed through the room.
"Used to believe in love
Used to believe in fairy tales..."
"Yeah..." I replied to no one in particular. "Me too." And I started crying again.
I was practicing my fighting in the backyard of my house when my younger cousin, Hanabi, sneaked up beind me. Or tried to anyway. I knew she was there.
"What?" I growled, turning my angry stare on her.
"Your uncle wishes to see you." She said shortly. I tossed my sweat towel over my shoulder and brushed past her, growling "fine," under my breath.
My uncle was in the sitting room at the table, sipping tea gingerly. When he saw me, he put down his cup and gestured that I take a seat. I bowed and took my place on the cushion opposite him.
"You wanted to see me?" I drawled. I hated the man. He was the reason my father was dead.
"Yes, Neji.. As you are now fifteen, I think it only fair to tell you of the arrangement your father made for you." I nodded, accepting his offer.
"Neji...you are to be wed."
I think I might have stopped breathing for a second.
"Okay," I said finally, when I remembered how to inhale. My uncle did a double take.
"Really?" he exclaimed. "Neji, you're being so...agreeable. To be honest, I thought you'd be opposed to this."
"It's my father's wish. I must respect it." I told him. "So who's the girl?"
"Her name is Tenten. She's your age, and from what I've heard, quite pretty."
"Heard from who?"
"Parents always say their child is pretty. She's probably not all that great." She was probably deformed. but I was stuck with her.
"When's the wedding?"
"One month." That wasn't very long...oh well. Whatever.
"And you're meeting her tomorrow. Our families are meeting up to start the wedding arrangements."
"Fine." He just blinked at me. He was surprised I was cooperating. In the back of his mind, though, I knew he expected me to flip out later or run away before the wedding.
Something like that.