The blonde whipped her head around to see her scotch-drinking friend. Her face beamed. "Hey! Where did you go? You just disappeared on me!"
"I'm sorry," he said smiling, "I went to the restroom. I figured you and your friend would be talking for a while."
Usagi rolled her eyes. "Please. She sniffed out some idol she's been fantasizing about ever since she figured out boys really didn't have cooties. I won't be seeing her for a while."
"Good." Showing off that bright smile of his, he extended his hand with another full glass of white wine. "Refill?"
"Read my mind." There was no fighting his offer this time. Usagi took the full glass while setting down her empty one before taking an immediate gulp.
The two shared a moment of silence before the young man took up the torch to break it.
"That was quite a message you left. Is everything okay?"
Usagi slightly grinned and looked down into her glass. "You heard?"
"I'm sorry," he shook his head and chuckled, "It wasn't my place…"
"No, it's fine. It'll be nice to talk about it." She looked up to the young man to lock eyes with him. His gaze told her to continue and she fell right into it. "It's just hard, you know? Being a doctor's wife, the emergency calls are just as part of my life as it is his. It's not often when we get to have a night together and tonight being my birthday, I thought it would be special enough for me to luck out and spend time with him." She laughed to herself. "But the gods aren't having it."
He gave a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry. It must be hard. But it sounds like you love him very much and I'll bet he undoubtedly feels the same way. Don't give up… you have a lot of time ahead of you."
Usagi let out sardonic giggles. "That's easier said from a stranger. Have you ever been married?"
"No, but I've been in a long-term relationship before."
She nodded. "You've been in one? So what happened? Lemme guess: she was a lawyer?" Usagi winked.
It was his turn to look into his glass… and to be serious. "She died about four years ago."
If she could ever feel like utter shit, it would be now. Her voice caught in her throat and it was hard for her to even speak… or breathe. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to… Oh God. I'm so sorry!"
"It's fine. You didn't know, Odango." The man sadly smiled.
Usagi coughed and looked down to hide her blush. "I'm sorry about… her." The summer breeze was surprisingly chilly.
"Don't worry. It'll be nice to talk about it." His smile turned heartfelt.
The blonde took a huge gulp of her wine to drink down her fast heartbeat and humiliation. There he goes again making jokes in he midst of seriousness. She licked her lips of the remaining wine taste. "How did she…?"
"Hit and run," he cut her off, saving her from the awkwardness of finishing her question. "We were… out on the town one night. I guess we weren't paying attention or the driver wasn't, I don't know. But I barely blinked when it happened." He swished his wine and stared off into nothingness. "She died in my arms before the paramedics could get there."
The air hung heavy with depression. "That's so horrible," was all Usagi could say with the onset of sympathetic tears.
The dark-haired man nodded in agreement. "It is. No one should ever have to go through that. No person should ever have to watch their lover die. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone. It changed my life."
"I… can't imagine."
Breaking her focus from the young man, Usagi's head turned toward the door to the stairs opening and slamming loudly against the wall about twenty feet away. In the entryway stood Minako holding a red fruity drink adorned with a pineapple slice and cherries on the rim.
"There you are, Usagi! I've been looking everywhere for you!" The red-bowed woman yelled from under the doorframe with a slight slur to her speech.
Usagi chuckled. "Why have you been looking for me?"
"Have you seen Rei anywhere? I just dawned on us that she's missing and she's not answering her phone. We're all on this huge manhunt for her."
The odango-head looked up in thought derisively. "Enlighten me as to why people are trying so hard to look for her?"
"She does sign my time card." Minako shrugged and began playing with her cell phone that she held in her other hand, more than likely giving Rei another call. "I can't believe that she was such a bitch about coming to this party and then peaces out before it's over. Hippo-crite!"
"I saw her leave about an hour ago. I don't know where, though." Usagi stated.
"Well at least we know she's not here and just ignoring us. I can't help but admit it's a bit weird she's not answering her phone. You would think the skin on her hand grew into it considering how much she's on it."
"Hmm… that is strange…" the odango-head began to wonder.
"Eh, well, I'm gonna go back down and find Yaten. I saw Ayaka from H.R. crawling up his ass earlier." Minako growled before soon making her exit.
After the door slammed shut, Usagi turned back toward the stranger. Luckily, he was still standing there this time.
"With as much as she's shadowing Yaten, she better get some interview material out of him. He's the hardest person to get a hold of. He can be such an ass." The blonde looked at the young man to see him quietly snicker. "Anyway, Mina must be really drunk."
He smiled. "Why do you say that?"
"Let's just say she loves men," Usagi giggled, "especially attractive ones. She didn't even notice you."
She felt blessed to witness him lightly blush—a look that suited him—before he stated, "For being an ass, Yaten's pretty good at keeping a woman's undivided attention. And he doesn't even have to try. Or maybe she thought you already called dibs on me." The man had to laugh at his own joke.
"You know Yaten Kou?"
He nodded lightly during a sip of wine. "You could say that."
Usagi laughed and shook her head. "All you celebrities know each other. What am I saying?" She took another huge gulp of her wine before smacking her tongue and looking at the glass. "I can't believe I'm not feeling anything. This is my fourth drink and I'm barely tipsy. It's making me more tired than anything."
"Is that a good thing?" The dark-haired man raised a brow.
"Probably not and it's just my luck that tonight's the night I can't get drunk. It's a sign."
"A sign for what?"
"That I'm meant to remember tonight." Usagi sniggered to herself. "But really, I'm starting to feel very tired. I think I might turn in."
He smiled tenderly and nodded. "Let me walk you out." Turning on his heel, it revealed to the blonde a long wavy ponytail laying flat against his back. Had it not been for the city lights from nearby buildings, the color of his hair would have been lost within the blackness of his shirt. He put his hand on the handle of the door to give it a pull when, to their dismay, it did not budge. He gave it a few more pulls and still no success.
"It's locked." The man observed.
Directly behind him, Usagi's eyes were wide with fear. "What're we gonna do?"
"There's a fire escape on the other side," he faced the odango-head while pointing behind himself with his thumb. "We can get down that way."
Not being too much of a fan of the idea but realizing she had no other choice in the matter, the blonde woman followed the black-haired stranger down the dark painted steel balconies and stairways. She went as fast as her four-inch heels and tight pencil skirt would allow. It was an understatement to say that she was simply relieved when she made it to solid ground in one piece.
After they both made it down, they strolled slowly toward the busy street.
So now it was to be over. She would go home back to her lonely life and marriage of moments. As taboo as it looked that she spent time with a man other than her husband, Usagi did not feel any wrongness about it. In fact she felt content with him and a little saddened that she was too tired to carry on their night. But before she would go, she had to know one thing. "So, throughout this whole night of deep conversations and scotch stains, I never really thought to ask your name."
The stranger smirked. "It's Seiya."
"As in Yaten Kou?"
He winked. "You could say that. And yours?"
"Usagi…" he repeated before looking up in contemplation, "No, I still prefer Odango."
Usagi scoffed. "You're lucky you're a celebrity or I would be tearing that face up." Soon after that announcement, an imaginary light bulb flicked on over her head before she immediately began digging around her purse. Her distraction with the bottomless pit that was her purse caused her to stop in the isolated alleyway a few steps before reaching the street.
"Everything okay?" Seiya inquired, looking curiously at her and halting his saunter.
A few seconds later, Usagi produced a pen and notepad. "I must have your autograph, Mr. Kou," She beamed.
All he could respond with was by throwing his head back in laughter. "Why would you want an autograph from a former has-been?"
The odango-head returned the laugh but blushed profusely and felt a little embarrassed. "I'm sorry I was so mean earlier! But I promise I've changed my mind. Plus it's my birthday so you have to."
"It's your birthday? Really?"
"Yes." She grinned. "Now sign."
Seiya smirked mischievously and reached out slowly for Usagi's pen and pad. As he grabbed them—with Usagi still holding on—the blonde felt an intense body shiver, yet again.
"Oh my, I'm sorry. I keep doing that. I've been unusually cold tonight." She nervously smiled.
"I'm sorry. I left my jacket in the car. You'll warm up soon." He murmured while scribbling on the paper. As Seiya finished, he stepped closer to the blonde and put his lips close to her ear and supported himself by leaning on the concrete wall of the Hana Bar. Usagi immediately stiffened and held her breath as her heart tried to beat violently out of her chest.
"It was nice to know you, Odango. Mamoru's a lucky guy… I'm glad I met you and I'll never forget you."
They locked eyes for a moment while Usagi registered all that Seiya said. She hoped she had not been sending him the wrong signals but she did hang out with him—and only him—the whole night, so what did she expect? Although after his statements, the only moves he made was dropping her pen and pad back in her open purse and stepping back, putting a comfortable space in between them.
She cleared her throat nervously and took an interest in the ground. As blank as her mind was, what she had to respond with had to now come from the heart. "You too, Seiya… thank you. You've saved this night for me."
Seiya's dark blue eyes flashed with contentment and looked toward the street. "You better go. Cabs are waiting and I wouldn't want anyone to steal another one from you."
Usagi smiled and followed the man's gaze to a waiting cab. "Yeah…" She finished her journey out of the alley and made it to the yellow stationary vehicle. After opening the back door, she turned around to finish their parting. Seiya had followed her closely and stood only a couple of feet away. He too was there to finish the goodbye.
"Bye, Seiya…" Usagi whispered. It was barely audible. She felt timid and weary about leaving him. She felt that she made such a connection with him that she would want to see him again. And she was wondering if he felt the same way. But Mamoru was also on her mind and she needed to go home for him. She should not be worrying about anything else. For the last time that night, she hugged herself tightly for warmth.
"Bye, Odango." Seiya winked and smiled.
Immediately after the blonde stepped and sat into the car, Seiya closed the door shut and the driver was quickly on his way.
"The wind's strong tonight." The driver observed.
"You're telling me." Usagi responded before giving the driver her destination address. A little while into the ride, after going over the last hour in her mind, she took out her travel-sized notepad from her purse to stare at the signature of Seiya Kou. Along with his autograph, he had also left a phone number.
She curled up tightly on one end of the love seat with a blanket draped over her shoulders. Lazily, Usagi watched several minutes of a made-for-TV movie until she heard a loud rapping at her front door. Basically jumping out of her seated position, the odango-head bounced to answer her door.
"Hey…" Minako stood at the front door. She was dressed in her pink designer sweat suit and wore bug-eyed sunglasses to cover the dark circles under her eyes and to shield them from the light.
"I know that look." Usagi said mockingly.
"Save it. Where do you hide your Alka-Seltzer?" Minako did not want to have any of Usagi's comments and pushed past her to walk to the kitchen. Her red bow that was usually perfectly starched was looking a little sad this Saturday morning. Throwing her tiny purse on the counter of the island, she opened the designated medicine cabinet and revealed the shelves filled from back to front with the medicinal antacid. "Wow, you've packed enough for the apocalypse."
Usagi followed her friend to the kitchen and sat herself at the island bar in the middle of the room. She shrugged. "Mamo-Chan has a weak stomach. Did you end up finding Rei?"
The red-bowed woman filled an empty glass with tap water and dropped the two white tablets in the cup. They immediately began dissolving into a fizzy reaction.
"No, but speaking of which, where were you the rest of the night?" Minako leaned over the counter.
"I just got so tired and the place was so cold so I just decided to leave. I was getting shivers every minute." She twisted her face. "It was weird."
Minako cocked her head. "Really? I was warm… actually, really hot."
Usagi chuckled. "Yeah well those daiquiris probably helped."
"So is that why you went up to the roof was to warm up?"
"Not really. I went up there to leave Mamo-Chan a message. I was really short with him when he had to cancel so I called to apologize. But now that you mention it, I was pretty cold up there too." Usagi's voice trailed in reflection.
"Why didn't you just have a drink? It obviously worked for me." Minako asked as she shrugged. She stared into her glass where the tablets were still dissolving.
"I did. I had a couple of glasses of wine."
Minako's attention immediately focused on Usagi. "What?" She snapped.
The odango-head was taken aback by her friend's outburst and slowly repeated herself. "I had a couple of glasses of wine."
The red-bowed woman took off her sunglasses and rubbed her temples. She felt her hangover was making her hear things… or make her think she saw things the night before? "That's weird. I don't remember seeing you with a drink all night."
What Minako said started to make Usagi nervous. "Really? Because… I did drink."
Minako shook her head. "I swear I did not see any drink in your hand any of the times I ran into you. Plus, the bar wasn't even serving wine; just liquor and champagne. Their shipment was late."
"Okay, Mina, how much did you really have to drink in the beginning of the hour?" The odango-headed blonde was trying to rationalize Minako's contrasting observations.
"C'mon, Usagi, I've never gotten completely blackout drunk in the first hour of drinking since I was seventeen. And I certainly remember the conversations I had with you before you left. I promise I saw no drink in your hand."
"But I know what I did." Usagi started becoming defensive. "This guy I met bought me glasses of wine."
Minako's eyes widened as she gasped loudly. "Oh that's right, you did say you were talking to some guy! Who was he?" The previous argument was temporarily rendered moot.
"Oh him…" Usagi covered her mouth to keep in her giggling as she let herself blush.
"Oh him, hehehe… YES him! Spill!" Minako imitated the odango-head.
"It's a funny story. I was running out the door to catch a cab when I ran past him and his glass full of scotch spilled all over my shirt. I was so livid and had to go clean myself up and I ended up missing my cab since Rei took off without me…"
"You were going to leave with Rei?" The hung over flaxen interjected.
"Oh yeah, she offered to share a cab since she knew I had to leave but she left me behind," Usagi said maddeningly. "I don't know where she went though. Anyway, so I was a bit rude to the guy about the whole spill and everything. But I guess I made him feel bad enough to the point that he bought me drinks." She shrugged and showed a cute grin.
"Drinks meaning: the imaginary wine?" Minako raised a brow as she took a sip of her fizzy water.
Usagi scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Maybe he brought it from home or maybe they told you 'no' since you weren't a celebrity or sponsor, but I know: I. Drank. Wine." She slapped her hand on the granite top with the last three words spoken.
Shrugging, the red-bowed woman stated, "It must have been some homemade magical wine with some invisible glasses because I didn't see anyone else with wine and-"
"ANYWAY…" Usagi continued on talking about Seiya, "I'm surprised you weren't jumping all over him and humping his leg. He was pretty cute." She winked. "The bad side of me thought that if it weren't for Mamoru, I would have called dibs." The memory of Seiya's joke played in her head and she laughed to herself.
If Minako could get any more confused, it happened. "I saw him?"
"Yeah, well, he went off to the restroom when you ran into me in the bar. But when you came up to the roof he was there with me. I'm guessing Yaten is that interesting that you didn't notice any other man?" the odango-head raised her eyebrows.
For a moment, Minako was paralyzed with perplexity. Her mouth hanged ajar before she could think of words to say. "I think I'm in need of another drink…"
"…Because I don't remember seeing anyone up there with you."
The odango-head raised her hands up in frustration. "Why is it so hard for me to tell you this story?!"
"Well, sorry! But I honestly don't remember seeing anyone up there on the rooftop with you. Maybe those drinks were packed with more liquor than I thought…"
"Yeah…" With each word Minako said, it made Usagi more unsettled. She wanted to believe her friend but she knew what she experienced. She tried to keep her cool and make clear of Minako's statements with as reasonable of explanations as she could come up with—as even Minako was starting to do. "He was wearing all black so maybe he sort of blended in…"
"Okay, okay, so anyway, did you get his name?" Minako began taking gulps of her medicinal drink. She was too hung over to be going in circles with her friend and just decided it would be better for Usagi to get on with her story.
She snickered. "You're gonna love this! He's actually a celebrity and a relative of Yaten's. His name is Seiya. Do you know of him?"
Usagi was answered by Minako's violent coughing. Much of the Alka-Seltzer mix sprayed everywhere on the counter as the red-bowed woman was trying to hack up the liquid that went down the wrong tube and into her lungs. Usagi grabbed a dish towel to wipe the spill and patted Minako's back to aid her. After a few moments, the choking woman was able to speak.
"You… you met… Seiya Kou?" Minako sputtered in between heaves and coughs.
Usagi nodded vigorously. "Yeah, can you believe it? A real celebrity talked to me." She smiled to make light of the situation but it immediately faltered when Minako's face did not return the lightheartedness.
"Seiya Kou, the Seiya Kou? As in Yaten Kou?"
Her once vigorous nodding was now slowed once she registered the disbelief in Minako's face. "Yes…"
"Are you sure about that?" the usually carefree and bubbly Minako was serious and desperately searching for the truth in the depths of Usagi's eyes for the first time in their friendship.
"Well, that's who he told me he was. Is it that hard to believe?"
"Yes… actually." The hung over friend bluntly retorted.
The odango-head could not help but feel a bit insulted her for Minako to tell her that. "What're you saying? That I'm lying?"
"No… It's just…" Minako sighed almost in defeat at the fact that she did not like being in the middle of the crossfire of her and Usagi's ongoing 'she said, she saw' battle. "Listen, if I showed you a picture of him, would you be able to recognize him?"
"Of course," Usagi stated confidently.
Minako bobbed her head. "Yes, let's do that." She took the initiative to walk into the living room where Usagi's laptop lay on the coffee table. Both of the women sat on the sofa while the red-bowed one used a search engine to pull up a picture of the celebrity Usagi claimed she met the night before.
"Is this him?" Minako turned the laptop screen toward her odango-headed friend. The search returned 30,000 hits of the man's photo. Various album covers, magazine spreads and advertisements formed the bulk of Seiya's search engine photo repertoire.
Usagi's light blue eyes lit up. "Yes, that's him! That's definitely him. Wow… I didn't know he modeled for Versace." She scanned the rest of the first page of pictures, basically gawking at him and his half-nakedness.
"Usagi, you didn't know the difference between Madonna and the Virgin Mary when you first came to Stargaze. I don't know how you bullshitted your way through that interview."
"I just bought all the gossip magazines and studied them a couple of days beforehand. It was really no big deal." The subject turned to a dead horse when Usagi kept intently gazing at the pictures. "The way he talked to me, I would have never known he had this body or was famous at all." The odango-head felt and sounded like a lovesick schoolgirl looking at photographs of cute celebrity men.
"Did he… tell you about himself in any way?" Minako asked, eyeing her friend.
"Yes actually. He told me about his girlfriend and how she died in his arms a few years ago after being hit by a car." Usagi sighed in sympathy. "It was so sad but he seemed strong about it."
Minako slowly nodded. "Uh huh… yeah, I think you need to see something." She clicked on the Web site hits and opened a link that directed them to his Wikipedia page. "Read this."
Complying, Usagi's brow furrowed in bewilderment only after two seconds of reading, "Whoa, wait. This… this can't be Seiya… it can't be," She stuttered.
"Why's that?" Minako inquired, already knowing the answer.
"Because it says that he died four years ago. This can't be him."
"But you sounded certain it was him when I pulled up his pictures-"
"It's not him, Mina!" Usagi raised her voice. "Or this information is wrong. I know I talked to a man… who was alive. This can't be him. It's Wikipedia for god's sake; you can't believe anything you read on it. Apparently someone with some sort of sick mind edited this stuff."
She nodded, "Fair enough." Minako scrolled to the references at the bottom and chose a credited link titled, Remember Seiya Kou. She transferred the laptop onto Usagi's lap and sat back for a few minutes for her to read.
Usagi's heart skipped a beat at what she examined:
"Seiya Kou (July 30, 1985 – June 30, 2006) was a musician, singer/songwriter, producer and actor. He is most notably known for being in the pop trio, "Three Lights" for the last five years of his life with his cousins: Yaten and Taiki Kou. After his death in 2006, the remaining members of the band started a charity in his name titled, The Seiya Kou Foundation, to raise funds against leukemia, which was the cause of his sudden stroke that led to his death. Its annual fundraiser has been held for the last three years at the Hana Bar, his favorite bar and the site of his death."
She skimmed through a good chunk of the long Web page about his early days and career, stopping momentarily when she caught sight of a picture of Seiya only four hours before his death; he was wearing the same black shirt and slacks she saw him in the last night. Once Usagi began reading about his personal biography up until his death, the story sounded eerily familiar.
"In late 2000 Seiya began dating former high school classmate, Kakyuu Kino, in which lasted for six years until her death in February 2006 due to a hit and run accident. Kino and Kou were attending the local celebrity parties in the Roppongi district when a car struck her in the middle of 5th and 49th. Kou recalls her death in a newspaper interview:
'She died in my arms before the paramedics could get there. No one should ever have to go through that. No person should ever have to watch their lover die. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone. It changed my life.'
Later, on June 30, 2006, Kou and the rest of the Three Lights were seen at the Hana Bar for a promotional event of their new album. Seiya collapsed suddenly in the bar only three hours into the event. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival due to a cerebral infarction. It was revealed in his autopsy that he had acute myeloid leukemia which caused the fatal stroke. He was buried on July 5. He was 25 years old when he died."
Unable to read on, Usagi sat back against the sofa speechless and on the edge of denial.
"I guess you didn't realize that last night was put on by The Seiya Kou Foundation," Minako muttered.
"I don't believe it. I can't believe it."
"Usagi, don't worry. It was probably some sick, twisted motherfucker who memorized all his information and looked like him in order to get into your pants…"
"Pants?" The odango-head's ears perked.
Minako blinked in uncertainty. "Yes, pants."
"Pants… shirt… Mina, he spilled on me!" She looked into the light blue eyes of her red-bowed friend and grabbed her by the arms. "I told you he spilled his scotch on me and it stained my blouse! Did you not see them when you saw me?"
Minako returned the arm-grabbing gesture. "Usagi, I can't remember. I wasn't paying attention. But I'm not so sure that it was him who spilled on you…"
"Yes, he did," Usagi turned her laptop screen around to face Minako and tapped a paparazzi photo of Seiya from the Web site. "Seiya did. I know it's him."
Minako shook her head accompanied with a subtle eye roll. "I don't know, Usagi…"
Something inside the odango-headed blonde told her to check her blouse. "Come with me!" Usagi shoved the laptop onto her coffee table and was soon jogging to her bedroom. Her flaxen friend started to follow her when she heard her cell phone ringtone from her small purse in the kitchen. She was torn between following Usagi and answering the phone when she realized it was probably someone with news on Rei's whereabouts who was calling.
"Usagi, I'll be in the living room!"
The odango-head heard Minako but did not respond, for she was too fixated on finding last night's blouse and proving to Minako that the Seiya Kou she met was real. As real as he could be to spill on her, for the alcohol to stain her blouse and to actually speak to her for over an hour. She was not crazy. She knew she was not crazy!
Making it to her closet, Usagi hurriedly flipped on the light switch and began digging through her dirty laundry from the week that would usually end up on the closet floor. It only took a few moments of searching when she found that plain white blouse; the blouse—though plain—was versatile enough to be appropriate for work as well as cute for going out. Usagi went to a resale shop and stumbled upon it when she was looking for a tunic to wear on her beach trip last year. She was excited that the shirt would cost her only $30 even though it was designer; she was enraged when she realized it was ruined by a stranger armed with a glass of scotch;
And she was in disbelief when she saw that it was now as clean as the day she bought it.
Usagi practically dragged her feet back to the living room, having the blouse draped over her arms. She kept staring at the shirt as if the stains were to appear if she willed hard enough. But no matter how hard she thought or how the light in her apartment changed, the stains were not reappearing… as if they were not there in the first place.
Finally looking up once she made it to her destination she came face-to-face with Minako, who was looking pale in the face and standing in the middle of the living room holding her cell phone away from her ear.
"That was Hina from work. They found Rei."
Usagi gulped, knowing the stoic look on her friend's face indicated she did not receive good news. "Where was she?"
"She was in a car accident last night. The cab lost control and ran into the side of a building and then flipped into a culvert. She's in critical condition…" Minako took in a breath before her bottom lip began to slightly quiver, "They don't think she's going to make it."
Receiving the news gave Usagi a realization that made her weak in the knees and she leaned against the wall to keep herself from collapsing. She began to hyperventilate as she felt a rush of coldness and numbness throughout her whole body. The silent tears started up and fell down her cheeks involuntarily.
Minako ran to her and grabbed her shoulders, looking deep into her eyes. "I don't mean to bring this up… but it's too… strange…not to. Didn't you say you almost left with her?"
The odango-head looked to her friend with red eyes. "I was only five steps away from getting into the cab. Because Seiya spilled on me, I didn't go and she left without me. Mina… that could have been me too…" She buried her hot face into the blouse to catch the tears. "He saved my life."
"And the shirt…?" Minako shifted her focus on the clean blouse that lay across Usagi's arms. The only thing it was stained with now was the odango-head's tears.
"They're… gone…" Usagi started laughing to herself and shrugged. "Of course they're gone. But I swear to you, something kept me from going into that cab with her last night. I was going with her to meet up with Mamo-Chan. Would I really miss that opportunity with him on imaginary stains?"
"You didn't really miss out. He canceled on you anyway, right?"
More chuckles erupted from the odango-head. "Yeah I guess it didn't matter. I couldn't really control that car accident…" Her statement which was supposedly nonchalant caused her to look to Minako with a sudden inquisitive look. "Did Hina say what hospital Rei went to?"
Minako started connecting the dots and expressed it with a look of nervousness. "Aiiku Hospital."
"Where Mamo-Chan works…"
~"There's been a horrible car accident just a few minutes ago…"
"No one should ever have to go through that. No person should ever have to watch their lover die. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone."~
The memory of both the men's statement from the previous night was enough for her to almost faint. Had she been in that cab with Rei, she would have been rushed to the same hospital where her husband worked and he would have had to watch her…
"Usagi, this is getting creepy enough for me to believe it." Minako shook her head in fascination, disrupting the odango-head's train of thought. "This just seems like too much of a coincidence. I know it was only rumored for the Hana Bar to be haunted but-"
"It's haunted?!" Usagi whipped her focus on her flaxen friend and telepathically demanded her to continue with all the details.
"I mean, I thought it was only a rumor that his spirit frequented the place. I thought people were just being superstitious for believing it." With every word she spoke, Minako seemed to get more passionate.
"You think that I was talking to a ghost all night?" Worriment painted the odango-head's expression.
"How else can you explain your invisible wine, the non-existent stains or me not seeing him? Do you really think you were talking to some magician impersonator or that all those sites dedicated to the memory of Seiya aren't real? How did he happen to spill on you right before you got into a cab that was fated to crash and you would have been rushed to the very hospital where your husband works and—oh yeah—you would have more than likely died under his watch?"
Usagi squint her eyes shut and began rubbing her temples, the hyperventilation increasing tenfold. "Please stop talking, Mina… you're scaring me."
"I'm scaring you? You're the one talking dead people!" Minako defended.
"And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it was some impersonator and I am crazy."
"Are you sure?"
The odango-head sighed and shook her head admittedly. "…No…"
Minako bit her lip in thought. "Do you remember anything else happening between you guys at all? Was there anything else he left with you?"
Light bulb. "I got his autograph." Usagi bolted from her position against the wall to her purse that sat on the dining room table all on its lonesome. Once again, she dug through the bottomless pit of a bag and turned out her notepad from the chaos. She briskly flipped through the used pages.
Minako followed, with cell phone still in hand, and asked from behind, "Is it still there?"
Without answering her question verbally, Usagi silently showed Minako Seiya Kou's scribbled signature and phone number.
The bubbly flaxen took the pad to examine it closely. "It looks pretty legit…"
"How is it that this is real, but not the wine or stains?"
Minako studied the autograph for a bit while also considering Usagi's remark. With all the power of her leftover brain cells, she tried to dig from the darkest and deepest recesses of her memory for all the information she read about on Seiya's death. "I have heard of people who see his ghost, see him with a glass of scotch or wine. Did he use your pen and pad to sign his autograph?"
The recollection of shivering at his taking of her pen and notepad sent more chills down Usagi's spine. If she and Minako were on the same page, they would theorize that the wine and scotch were part of his spirit, thus was invisible to everyone else whom he did not will to see him. But because the pen and paper belonged to Usagi and was part of this world, it was the only evidence of his presence that could be known to the living.
"Yes," Usagi finally answered after a few moments of stillness.
"Did you read what was written out by this phone number?" Minako questioned.
The odango-head shook her head 'no,' still in a pensive, hypnotic trance. "It was really dark in the cab."
"It says, 'because Yaten is such a reclusive ass.' Did you mention to him we've been trying to get an interview out of him for years since Seiya's death?"
"Not really. Just in passing that he was hard to get a hold of."
"Yaten has been harder to get a hold of than the Pope. Not even his publicist will disclose his whereabouts and he has declined every single interview from every single magazine for years. Only a few close friends—practically sworn to secrecy—know how to get a hold of him, Seiya included. Do you know what this means?"
Usagi gave her friend a blank stare.
Minako continued on. "If this is, in fact, Yaten's number, I am ninety-nine percent sure that you talked to Seiya Kou." She held out the notepad and her cell phone to Usagi. "Call it."
All she could do was suspiciously stare at the piece of technology that her bubbly friend was trying to hand her. What she was implying made more sense than a magician impersonator with a twisted ambition. But a ghost? Really? It would seem that the tables had turned and it was now Minako who was trying to convince her that she talked to the apparition of Seiya Kou. The thought of spending a night talking with some unworldly entity sounded superstitious and creepy, on top of the fact that it just so happened he saved her from dying in her husband's presence. She wanted now to believe so bad it was some unnatural coincidence. But her mind would go back to asking how Minako did not see a wine glass in her hand or how the dark scotch stains disappeared completely from her blouse or how Seiya basically promised himself that he did want wish for anyone to go through the pain of seeing a loved one die; a pain that Mamoru somehow avoided that night.
"Isn't that place haunted?"
"It just wasn't meant to be…"
"Don't give up… you have a lot of time ahead of you."
"She didn't even notice you."
"I can't believe I'm not feeling anything. This is my fourth drink and I'm barely tipsy."
"The wind's strong tonight."~
There was only one way to find out.
Dialing the numbers and putting the device on speakerphone, the women heard four loud rings before someone picked up on the other line.
"Hello? This is Yaten."