Work dragged on way too long today.
After calling Hisao, he assures me he kept his promise but wanted the rest of the night to himself. “Earlier, after you left, I had a small heart flutter that really drained me.”
… Oh gods…
The worry I’ve been trying to suppress oozes out of my voice. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mea-”
“Don’t worry about it Mai, I met some people at the park that got me flustered. Add in remembering last night at an inopportune time and BOOM
, heart flutter.”
That isn’t very comforting Hisao…
“Besides, it turned out one of them had a nurse for a father. He checked me out and said I was fine, though he reminded me to take it easy the rest of the day. She was super apologetic and invited me for lunch to make up.”
“Wait, a girl?”
“Yeah, she also mentioned she goes to Hosei for sports science and offered to help me up my exercise regiment; I figured you'd appreciate hearing that.”
“I mean, sure, but…” But I was hoping I could do that for y- Nope, bad Mai.
“Don’t downplay a heart flutter Hisao. It’s been months since your last one. What exactly happened to cause it? Did she hit you or something?”
“Oh, uh… No, she was flirting.”
“Really? That’s all?
” I try to turn my jealousy into playful banter, though I’m not sure he’ll buy it.
“Seriously, that’s all.” I hear him sigh at the other end of the line. “I started to say I was engaged… That’s what put me over the edge.”
I want to sigh relief, but that isn’t a much better topic. “Oh… Yeah, I can see how that would do it. You sure you’ll be fine tonight?”
“Yeah, go keep Iwanako company. I’m sure she could use it too…” His tone doesn’t fill me with confidence, but this isn’t something I should push right now.
Some small talk and pleasantries to fill the space, then the call ends.
After metaphorically slamming my head against a wall, I dial up Iwanako. She’s voiced some concerns before, but none of them seemed enough to break-up with Hisao over.
A couple rings and she picks up. “Hey Mai, you wanna come over?”
Straight to business I see. “Yeah, Hisao insists he’ll be fine today. Needs some rest anyway, so I thought I’d be a friend to the other person who went through hell yesterday.”
‘Nako’s parents’ house always gives me the creeps. It’s supposedly super modern - grey, metal, and angular - but it just doesn’t seem like a home. It’s three stories high, with her room being the top floor, and it couldn’t feel smaller.
Knocking on the front door, it’s only a few seconds before my friend opens the door. From her red eyes and puffy cheeks, it’s a safe bet she’s been crying, but there’s a tipsiness to her also. “Hey ‘nako, how’re you doing?”
She invites me inside, stumbling up to the second floor den. I see her mom’s alcohol on the table, confirming my suspicions.
“Mai, Mm not sure how ya plan to help, but now’s a gud time ta ask. There’s’nough liquor in ma veins I cnd’t lie if I want’d to.”
“First, you need some coffee and food. You may answer whatever I ask, but it won’t do any good if you can’t remember anything.” Grabbing her glass, which is about half full, I down the rest of it to help calm my own nerves. I then take the bottle, put the top back on, and return it to the bar her mom uses to entertain guests.
Pulling out my phone, I order the greasiest thing on wheels: pizza. I order ‘nako’s favorite - mayo jaga with eel - then a more reasonable sausage for me. I’ve got my own disgusting preferences, but I don’t have the cash for it today.
I start up their coffee machine before plopping down next to Iwanako. “So, what led you to breaking up?”
She sits there long enough that I think she’s fallen asleep. Before I lean in to check, she speaks, “Itsh… uh long shtory…”
I put my arm around her and pull her into a tight hug. “Take as long as you need cupcake, I’ve got all night. It’ll be easier to understand you once you’re less drunk anyway.”
We sit there in silence for a while. Once the coffee is done and we both have some pizza in our systems, Iwanako looks much better. Eventually we separate, and while she’s definitely still drunk, more of her is there.
After getting a refill, she finally pipes up. “You’ve known Hisao since elementary school, right?”
“Yeah, we first met because he had an action figure I liked. I was bigger than he was and thought I could take it without much trouble. Turns out he was attached to that thing more than I thought, and we both got sent to the principal's office.” I take a sip of the black coffee in my mug. “Him standing up to me was impressive; been inseparable ever since.”
Not really sure what this has to do with what’s going on, but my story picks up her mood a bit. “I heard it was a magical girl figure, Sailor Mars?” I roll my eyes, garnering a chuckle from her. “I never would have pegged you as a Sailor Moon fan, too girly.”
“Hey, Mars is strong and a lot like me, okay? Sorry I felt kinship with a fictional character.” I play up my frustration, but I can’t keep a smile off my face. “Besides, what does this have to do with you breaking up with Hisao?”
A little bit of her previous somberness returns, her voice getting a little weak, “You guys have so much in common, I always feel left out when we spend time with you, Shin, and Takumi. I know Hisao loves me, but there’ve been so many barriers to jump over in our relationship. You’ve been there for him since elementary, you know better than I about his struggles with depression. He hates admitting it, but that’s been a frequent divide in our relationship. We were only just now getting to somewhere I really felt comfortable, but I’m not strong enough to be there for him during his depression, and…” Iwanako shrinks even further into herself, her voice reflecting her posture. “Then I met a guy in class…
My eyes go wide, and my jaw drops, but before I can say anything, she continues. “No, not like that, nothing has happened, but this guy I met a few months ago seems to understand me better than Hisao ever has, even a year and a half into our relationship. Better than I feel I’ll ever understand him. And that brought on a lot of questions like: Is Hisao the one? Am I his
Despite ‘nako being popular in school, this is the first relationship I know she’s ever had. I guess it isn’t that weird to have doubts. “Relationships are hard ‘nako, my parents can attest to that. You know how rocky things have been since high school started, but they didn’t give up, went to counseling and are doing better than they ever were before.” I pull her close again, setting her head on my shoulder. “I’m not saying to stay in a relationship you’re unhappy with, especially if supporting him is too much, but did you ever talk with Hisao about this stuff?”
She shakes her head. “No, I never knew how to bring them up, but I’m just holding him back. I’ve done my best to support him, but he’d be much happier with someone like you Mai, someone who understands him and doesn’t shut down every time he talks science.”
I’m frozen in the embrace I gave Iwanako, seconds passing before I can respond. My uneasiness with the new revelation peeks through my tone, “W-what? No he wouldn’t. Y-you’ve seen how we are, all I do is haggle him and beat’em up. He’s happy with you Iwanako, you’re just reading too in-”
“No he’s not, I distracted him too much during high school, and he spent so much time tutoring me in science and math that he failed his entrance exams. I only got into university because of him Mai, and now I can’t even be there for him during this shitstorm. He wanted the best for me despite me not wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, and I went and gave up on us… Besides, I’ve seen how you look at him. You’ve liked him since before you met me.”
I don’t have a response. She isn’t wrong, but I’ve been hiding it for so long and got them together... By now I’m not even sure if he could see me any other way than as a friend.
The silence drags on for a long while before Mai pushes me with her hip. “I’m not mad Mai, I didn’t even realize it until after we were dating, but with all these questions and doubts in my mind… I just can’t continue our relationship. You’ve been there beside him for years Mai; I’ve just been playing adult…” She settles more deeply into me. “This has been churning though my head for a while, but when he proposed last night I couldn’t spend any more time figuring it out. I’d even been moving stuff slowly to my parent’s house while he was at work.”
Wait, back up.
I withdraw from her a bit to look her in the eye. “You’ve been what?
How long have you been having these doubts?” My voice is a bit louder than I wanted, but she doesn’t back down.
“A few weeks. I didn’t mention it to you because I knew you’d tell him if he asked. We both know he can be a bit oblivious, but he isn’t blind. I was certain he’d notice my distance at some point…”
He didn’t notice crap Iwanako!
” I stand up so fast she has to catch herself before falling on the couch. “He has no fucking clue what the hell is going on. As far as he knows, you blindsided
him with this!”
Iwanako spends a few seconds processing my words before meeting my glare with guilt. “Wait, so he proposed…?”
“Because he fucking LOVES
you Iwanako! He didn’t think he was losing you, he just wanted to spend the rest of his goddamned life
with you! What the fuck were you thinking ‘nako!
” I practically slam my mug on the glass table, turning away and frantically pulling my hair.
A few minutes pass with neither of us saying a word. I’m too furious to say anything, and Iwanako looks too guilt-ridden.
Finally, with a face of resolve, she breaks the silence. “Mai, it doesn’t matter if he noticed or not. I’m not sure I
care about him that way anymore, and even if I did I couldn’t give him the support he needs.”
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, but deep down a part of me feels joy. How the fuck could I be happy about this?
The only response I can muster is a growl of frustration before collapsing next to Iwanako.
“Look, you know I would never want to hurt Hisao, but now I’m questioning every decision I’ve made ever since we started dating. Even if I still care, sorting this all out and asking him to wait would just be cruel.” Tears begin streaming down her face. “This hurts me just as much as it does him, Mai, but I can’t just stay there. I’ll end up resenting him…”
My frustration settles a bit, enough that I can keep it from my voice. “Yeah… I guess I can understand that…” I really can’t, but I’ve never been in a situation like this either; I’ve never seen Hisao’s heart or his struggles as a burden. I shake my head to clear it. “Look, regardless of your decision, you owe it to him to it explain it in person.” She flinches, but I can tell she agrees. “If you need someone there, I can grab Shin to keep me company and wait nearby. If either of you need help, we’ll be there, but you gotta handle this solo buttercup.”
She hesitantly nods, leaning into me before her tears return. “I know Mai… But not today. Maybe not until next week.”
I hold her close, just letting her cry into my shoulder. After a bit, I begin to stroke her hair and she gradually calms down. “You never answered me earlier ‘nako: how are you doing?”
This elicits a light titter. “Not good, Mai, but I’ll get there.”
I give her one last squeeze before backing off. “Good enough. I’ll let Hisao know you’ll talk to him but that it’ll be a bit, okay?”
“Thanks, I don’t deserve you as a friend.”
My voice takes on a warm and soft tone. “Bullshit, everyone needs a shoulder to cry on. One day you’ll return the favor.”
With a half-hearted punch from the bag of tears, we move on to lighter topics.
Finally got this chapter in order; lots of stuff changed since I wrote this so I had to go back through and change a couple things, which mean Mirage had to edit it again...
Anyway, it's Mai's first chapter! And it gives perspective on Iwanako's decision! A friend of mine who's reading this despises Iwanako as a character even after this chapter (though understands her depiction), so hopefully she's got enough character to not be one dimensional. This is also where Bantamweights
becomes apparent with the design of Iwanako's parent's house and the liquor stuffs. Future thanks to Leaty once she actually logs on an (hopefully) approves. Also current thanks to Dewelar since Leaty wrote it within his world and gave permission.
Enjoy! Feedback is always welcome!