I Don't Mind Being Alone

The traditional Japanese music played back in the house as I wandered the gardens. It was nice to escape the stuffy parties sometimes. I had to admit that they had more appeal now that there were pretty women and I was capable of getting the alcohol, but even still it wasn't exciting. I passed the pond and looked upon the fountain spurting water in the middle fondly. Masato and I had swum in that many-a-party, enraging our mothers for dampening our overpriced attire. I wished we were still that young. I wished we could get away with stunts like that now. Most of all I wished I was still friendly with Masato like we had been, almost brothers.

He'd left the party early on. After his father had introduced him to all of the prospective wives he'd escaped to become a wall-flower. I'd debated joining him, maybe suggesting an adventure like I had once been so famous for. Alas, I had a duty to remain on the dance floor and make my father look good. The party was all but finished now as the music winded down. The women had left and our fathers were ridding themselves of the drunken loiterers. I decided now that I'd have to look for the missing Masa. He'd want to know that it was over.

I turned the corner to the back of the garden shed. He sat with his knees curled up to his chest, hiding in the shadows, watching the moon rise over the pond. I knew he loved this spot; in fact, I would have found him sooner if it hadn't been so dark out. I approached him and looked down to his moon lit face. He looked grimmer than usual. The look did not suit him as well as his rare smile.

"I knew you'd be here," I whispered, staring down at him, hoping that his face would light up at the sound of my voice like it once had. It did not. It hadn't for a long time now.

"Doesn't take a detective," he remarked, snidely, his lip rising unattractively as he frowned out to the water, too upset to even look me in the eye. I watched him pick at his black dress pants, knowing all too well that he was going to be personally murdered for the wetness that the grass would cause upon his clothes. I leaned up against the wall, putting my elbow up and taking a sip of my champagne.

"Why so bitter Masa?" I asked, curious if he would open up to me. I didn't expect him to, but it would be pleasing if he would. It may lessen my worries.

"Masa?" he asked, his voice sounded unsure as though that wasn't his name any longer. "I can't remember the last time you called me that," he finished, finally looking at me with a sort of innocence in the watery depths of his eyes. I was worried I'd offended him. Perhaps bringing up his childhood nickname wasn't a good idea; I could imagine it making him feel small in the world.

"Do you not like it anymore?" I replied quickly. "I used to call you that all the time when we were kids." He nodded, his face going to that place where we were friends. I watched the memories dance in his eyes as he recalled our fleeting friendship.

"No, it's nice. I don't mind it," he decided, quietly speaking his mind. I switched my weight onto my other foot and looked at him contemplatively. He returned the glance silently.

"Why were you hiding away Masa?" I managed to whisper. He shrugged.

"I don't like parties much," he decided. "You know that," Masa accused as though I should have known that already. In fact, I did. We'd escaped so many as children it was a surprise he knew what really went on at parties seeing as though I couldn't remember the last one that I'd sat all the way through. With parties so abundant at our houses it was no wonder we were so sick of them. I agreed with him wholeheartedly, but that didn't mean I hid out in the yard whenever we had one.

"Yes, but why did you avoid everything? I would have talked to you," I reassured, wondering if perhaps that had been the precise reason he left. We weren't as close as we once were, but I still considered him a friend. Sometimes I wished we were more, but with his trust so hard to gain it was foolish to think that was possible. "And they weren't even monitoring the alcohol very closely; you could have at least—"

"Look Ren, it's just not my crowd," he snapped, looking up quickly then down at his knees once more. I wasn't sure what he meant by that statement. They were his people, just maybe not his crowd. I knew he liked the people he hung out with at school, but these people were the people of his business, his family. Chances were, his future bride attended these parties. He was idiotic if he said these weren't his people. Despite that, he still seemed to see them in that light and his escape from the party only proved his point further.

"Am I not your crowd anymore?" I asked, knowing that when he left the party he had left me too. His eyes looked glistening in the night; I couldn't tell if that was the moon shining or the tears welling in his eyes. He didn't want to answer me, but in a cold and exact manner he did.

"Not lately, no."

"Masa," I begged, hoping he would talk to me. This small-talk was so sickening and it was the only thing he would do with me anymore. He was a true idiot, but he used to be my friend the idiot and I missed that.

"I don't mind being alone," he whispered, looking at me and holding my gaze. He subtly hinted at me to leave. He truly looked as though he was thinking something over, but I didn't care. I was going to be here for him, whether he wanted me to or not. Chances were it would be the latter, but his anger at me for remaining was at least a tangible emotion rather than his cold, endless, empty gaze.

I sat down carefully in the grass beside Masato, handing him my champagne glass and urging him to take a sip of the sweet liquid. He looked at the glass skeptically, and then raised it to his lips. Masato put it to his lips and took a small sip. After he swallowed I set my hand on his knee and pat him. I pulled my face closer to him to whisper.

"You liar."

A smile crept onto Masa's lips before he kicked back the rest of the champagne with a laugh. He laid his head back against the concrete wall and I followed suit. We sat close to each other, both a tad tipsy, and stared up at the starry night like we used to when we were kids.

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