“That was some renegotiation.” Jon commented as he sipped champagne beside me. “When I saw you last, you guys weren’t even talking and now you’re engaged!”
I sighed. It didn't seem real to me either. The past two weeks had been a whirlwind. Everything seemed constantly on fast-forward … dinner with my parents, Takashi’s press release, the ensuing media interview, and finally, tonight. I almost laughed aloud. I was standing in the middle of a private function room at the ANA hotel—our engagement party was ongoing, people were congratulating us left and right, and yet I still couldn't believe this was actually happening.
Someone please pinch me. I actually said that aloud and Jon had complied. My side smarted from where he had over-enthusiastically squeezed.
I glanced to see who had called and saw Dan standing nearby. As I smiled and greeted him, Jon politely excused himself.
“So I guess this means you aren’t coming to Texas with me, huh?” Dan asked.
I shook my head. “I’m really sorry Dan, the research sounds fascinating but…”
“I understand. You don't have to be sorry Ana. Science will always be here for you, but people …” He glanced at Ken, who was introducing my mom to someone. “Sometimes you have to hold on to people.” He smiled wryly. “I’m just sad I wasn’t able to hold on to you.”
Lordy, that was the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard Dan say. But why wasn’t I hyperventilating? Instead I smiled sadly at him. He smiled back, shook my hand, and then left.
“What did wonder-Dan want?” Kaye asked, sidling up to me.
“Nothing, he just said goodbye. He’s leaving for Texas soon.”
Kaye was silent for a minute. “It never would have worked Ana. You were never really yourself with him. Whereas with Ken…” she grimaced, “I’m not saying it’s a match made in heaven, but I’m glad you can be your usual cranky self with him. At least he knows what he’s getting.”
I gaped. “Does this mean you approve?”
“Does it matter if Kaye approves or not when you and Ken are so obviously in love with each other?” Tessa asked as she, Jon, and Yoshi joined us.
I stared at Tessa, “Oh, but we aren’t!”
Tessa rolled her eyes. “We aren’t blind. Ken adores you! Even Kaye agrees.”
“I’m not disagreeing.” Kaye clarified.
“You of all people should know that this is all just an act.” I protested.
Yoshi shook his head. “I hate to say this Ana-chan, but Ken isn’t that good an actor.”
“And that rock on your finger certainly doesn't look fake.” Jon commented. In unison, we all looked at the 2-karat solitaire diamond ring that glinted on the fourth finger of my left hand.
“It’s just a ring.” I said though I cradled it protectively.
“Oi oi, we spent half a day picking that out!” Yoshi reminded. At my mulish expression, he sighed. “Ma ne, I think you’ve gotten too used to version 2.0 these past few months.”
Yoshi nodded. “Sou sou, Ken-chan version 1.0 scowls and grunts, gives monosyllabic answers, freezes people with a look, and walks around with a haughty look on his face.” He paused and took a sip of champagne. “Ken-chan version 2.0 smiles and laughs more, he’s more patient with people, and for the past few weeks, when he’s in the company of a certain someone, he walks around with a stupid grin on his face.”
I started shaking my head.
“Dyosko Ana, you’re not usually this obtuse.” Kaye complained.
“Ano ba, the guy loves you!” Tessa hissed, rolling her eyes.
“The question is do you love him?”
“Honey, someone had to ask.” Jon replied.
“Yeah, otherwise you’d be skirting the question until the next millennium.” Kaye snorted.
“Ne, ne, so do you?” Yoshi asked.
I gulped. Yoshi, Jon, Kaye, and Tessa stared at me expectantly. Muttering something about needing to visit the lavatory, I turned away. As I fled, I thought I heard the four of them sigh in unison.
I thought had the lavatory to myself when I heard someone address me. Hardly anyone ever called me a foreigner—at least not to my face—the Japanese were too polite for that. It was clearly meant as an insult and I turned around to see who had delivered it. I was surprised to see Ai, the woman from the concert after-party standing behind me. It wasn’t hard to recognize her—her clothes were just as skanky as the last time.
“Nan de? What are you doing here? This is a private party.” I told her as I turned to leave.
“Baka! He doesn’t really love you, gaijin.” She sneered.
“And I suppose he’s in love with you?” I asked derisively.
She laughed bitterly. “He’s still in love with Sakamoto-san. She’s back in town you know, that’s the only reason for this charade. He’s hoping she’ll be jealous and come back to him. I hope you won’t cry too much when he finally dumps you.”
“What I’m hoping for is that you’ll shut up.” I swear it took all my patience to leave without slapping her silly.
However, I felt my composure crack slightly as I walked back to the party. I’d almost forgotten about the issue of Erina. Ken never talked about her and I was too afraid to ask.
“Ah, Ana-san, Ken has been looking for you.” I looked up and saw Takashi heading towards me. No one had been more surprised to learn about our engagement than Takashi. Yoshi had joked that although Takashi was a good agent, he had the emotional range of a teaspoon (which kind of explained why he was still single).
I smiled and allowed him to escort me back to the party. Just before we were to enter, I stopped him. “Ano, Takashi-san, may I ask you something?” He looked at me questioningly. “Why did Ken and Erina break up?”
I could see that I had made him uneasy. He started mopping at nonexistent sweat on his forehead. “Etooo… I really don’t know Ana-san. Why don’t you ask Ken?”
“How long were they together?”
“Around 4 years maybe.” He scratched his head. “But he, Yoshi, and Erina were very good friends, so it may have been longer… Anooo, maybe we should go in now …”
I preceded Takashi back into the room, trying to hide how taken aback I was at his revelations. So Ken and Erina had been friends. They had been together for quite some time. And he did plan to ask her to marry him. That is, before she dumped him because she thought he had been getting it on with me. Were things really that simple? What had really happened? He couldn’t have forgotten her that easily, could he?
I rubbed my temples. Lordy. Did I really want to have ghosts in my bed even before I was even married?