“We have to talk.”
Ken glanced down at Ana’s softly uttered request. They were standing side by side at the foyer of Ana’s apartment building, waving Ana’s parents off. Ana’s father had belatedly remembered that one of his Japanese business associates had invited them over for dinner, and so dinner with Ken had been postponed until the following evening.
Ken followed Ana back into her apartment. Excited voices were issuing from the living room, where Tessa was regaling Kaye and Yoshi with the events of the past hour.
“Damn, damn, damn!” Kaye cursed, “Why did I have to go to the grocery just then?”
“Chikusho!” Yoshi cursed at the same time. “I was only downstairs having a smoke, why didn’t I come up earlier?”
Tessa giggled. “Too bad, it was really something to see! Don’t worry,” she tried to console them, “Jon doesn’t even know about it yet.”
They all stopped and turned when Ana and Ken walked in, but the look on their faces held back the barrage of questions that seemed to burn on their lips. Nodding to them, Ana went into her room. Ken followed and closed the door.
Tessa, Kaye, and Yoshi looked at each other and smiled.
“C’mon guys,” Tessa said, “Let’s give the newly engaged couple some privacy.” Kaye and Yoshi followed her, albeit reluctantly, out the door.
Ken glanced about Ana’s room. It was much smaller than his, but it was tastefully and simply decorated in tones of white, blue, and brown. It contained a bed and a desk. Cabinet doors lined one wall. Ana motioned for Ken to sit on the bed and he did so, expecting her to sit beside him or on the chair, but she started pacing about the room. Ken kept silent as he watched her. He couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out. Ana, however, seemed not to share his opinion. She looked like she wanted to start tearing her hair out. That thought made him chuckle.
Ana glared at him, “It isn’t funny.”
“C’mon,” Ken cajoled, “it’s a bit funny.”
Ana continued to scowl at him. After a few more minutes of pacing, she sat in the chair and faced him. “Why, Ken?” She asked. At his raised brow, she said impatiently, “You know what I mean. Why did you go along with the engagement?”
“Why did you say we were engaged in the first place?” He countered.
“I don’t know,” she said, “It seemed the right thing to say at the moment.” Then she rounded on him, “But why did you go along with it?”
“It seemed the right thing to say,” Ken echoed, smiling maddeningly. “And I thought you’d want me to back you up.”
“Well, I did but … but … but did you have to go so far as to arrange a wedding date?”
“We didn’t exactly decide on a date …”
“That’s besides the point!” Ana shrieked, “My mom is practically planning the wedding already.”
“Efficient woman, your mom.” Ken chuckled, “I like her already.”
“Oooh! We’ve got to do something,” she cried, “Have you got any ideas?”
When Ken simply smiled at her, she buried her face in her hands, “Maybe we can just pretend to get married at the local city hall to get them off our backs …”
“Baka. Your parents would see through that in a minute.”
“You’re right,” she agreed. “If we broke up …”
“It’s out of the question,” Ken told her.
Ana slumped in her seat and fell silent. He was right, she mused, if they broke up, he’d be left in the same position he’d been in when they first met. Ken’s career was important to him. And she had promised to see it through. But damn, she had never envisioned it to get tangled so.
Ken stared at her, “Would being married to me be all that bad?”
Ana stared back at him and considered the question. It actually wouldn’t be bad at all. In fact, a little voice inside of her kept urging her to jump at the opportunity. But she tamped down the giddy feelings that were threatening to burst forth.
“It’s just that it wouldn’t seem right. Marriage is something sacred, but you’re not … you don’t … we’re not even …” Ana gave a hollow laugh, “Well, it’s not as if we’ve suddenly fallen madly in love with each other.”
Or have they? The unspoken question resonated in Ana’s mind.
“Do you still love Sato?”
Ana looked at Ken blankly, as if she had trouble remembering who Dan was. Ken pulled her chair nearer, cradled her hands in his, and repeated his question.
“I-I don’t know.” Ana finally said.
Ken let out the breath that he had been holding and smiled, “Then what is stopping us from getting married?”
“A hundred things!” Ana cried, thinking of Erina, the buxom girl, and the fact that Ken didn’t love her. “And anyway, why would you want to marry me?”
Ken smiled mysteriously, “I have my reasons.”
After a few seconds, Ana prodded, “Well? What is it?”
Ken shook his head, “If you have to ask, then you’re sure as hell not ready for the answer. You’ll have to try and figure it out for yourself.”
He stood up and checked his watch. “I’ve got to go Ana,” he said, pulling her up for quick kiss, “I’ve got some shopping to do.”
As Yoshi and Ken were mostly silent as they drove to Aoyama. A secret smile played on Ken’s lips as he thought about the events of the day. First, his best friend had walked in on him and the woman he loved while they were in bed. Then he had taken her home, met her parents, and then they had become engaged. Not bad at all.
Not even Ana’s admonition that they should probably keep everything quiet for now could manage to dim his enthusiasm.
He was engaged to marry Ana. Damn if that didn’t feel good.
And he didn’t believe that she was still in love with Sato. As Ken came to find out, when it came to love, it’s either you are or you aren’t. Moreover, Ana wouldn’t kiss him back the way she had if she’d been in love with someone else. No, Ana loved him, he was sure of it. He was going to make sure of it.
Yoshi, noticing how happy Ken was, tried to be tactful, but he couldn’t resist a dig, “So did you have a nice day?” he asked innocently.
Ken gave him an exasperated look, but broke into a smile. “The best,” he answered. They drove in companionable silence for a while, then Ken suddenly asked, “Have you ever been in love, Yoshi?”
The car swerved dangerously before Yoshi righted it. “Are we having a real conversation here?”
Ken rolled his eyes, “Seriously, have you ever been in love?”
“I thought I was once…”
“Who was it?” Ken had never expected Yoshi to reply in the affirmative.
Yoshi shrugged, “Some girl from the past.”
Ken looked at him incredulously, “I never knew you were serious about anyone.”
“Are we really having this conversation?”
Yoshi was silent for a couple of minutes more. Then he shrugged, “I … I guess I never realized what I had in front of me. I wanted different things … so she left.”
Ken was mentally trying to sift through all the girlfriends Yoshi had been rumored to have in the past years. Stumped, he asked, “Did you go after her?”
“I tried. As soon as I realized my mistake, I tried. But it was too late.”
“Do you still think about her?”
“Sometimes.” Yoshi answered offhandedly. He didn’t add that he thought of her every time he saw her eyes in her brother’s face. Every time he looked at his best friend. Every time he looked at Ken, he remembered Yuki.
They were both silent Then Ken, wanting to change to topic, smiled and said, “Yuki’s coming home for a vacation soon. I can’t wait for her to meet Ana.”
Yoshi almost grimaced. So it was that time of the year again. The time of the year when he invented a reason to avoid Ken for a month. A reason to avoid running into Yuki. “So is she bringing another one of her European toy boys back this time?” He asked.
Ken snorted, “She never did say,“ he still remembered the last ass she had brought home, Francois something or the other, and almost shuddered. ”So where are you running off to this time?” at Yoshi’s startled expression, Ken grinned. “Don’t think I don’t know that you and Yuki can’t stand each other. It was pretty obvious the last few times you met up.” Ken turned into his driveway, “I don’t understand it, how could you hate each other so much?”
Because I broke her heart, Yoshi thought. But to Ken he said, “Maybe she thinks I’m a bad influence on you?”
Ken snorted as he turned the ignition off. He glanced at his friend, “I’ll find out about it soon you know,” he said as he got out of the jeep.
Yoshi glanced at his best friend's back as Ken pushed open the door of a shop. He fervently hoped Ken hadn't seen the alarm on his face.