“Okay, girls. Stretch your arms like this,” Mrs. Fujimoto instructed. All of the girls were in a hot tub to start the morning. Everyone was asked to be naked and had a relaxing hot bath. Along with that, Mrs. Fujimoto joined as one of the fasilitator. She taught on how to clean and be smooth to have a good night sleep with future husband.
Maimi glanced around the open air hot tub with wooden fences surrounded it. She was scared.
“Good. Of course you girls love to have a sweet night with future husband, right?” Mrs. Fujimoto asked, smirking. “Yes!” everyone answered sheepishly.
“Okay, you need to be relaxed, and refreshed. Then, clean your body carefully.”
“Um, Mrs. Fujimoto? Can you call Tezuka-kun to come here?” one of them joked.
“Hey!” Mrs. Fujimoto retorded playfully. “He’ll be more anxious, then he can’t decide which one of you to be picked.” Everyone chuckled. Mrs. Fujimoto took a glance at Maimi who was always looking down, embracing herelf. “Maimi-chan?”
Maimi looked up.
“Are you okay? Is there something wrong? If you’re sick, you’d better tell me.”
Maimi blushed. “Nothing.”
“Oh, I know!” a girl said. “Her boobs are too small like a mini lemon! That’s why she’s ashamed of herself!” another girl teased her. Obviously, Maimi was too skinny and her boobs could not be seen too much to appear like the other candidates’.
Laughter was filled into the scene. Mrs. Fujimoto sighed.
It was time for the tea ceremony. About fifty noble guests were invited. Many exclusive cars parked at the entrance. The guests were all dressed up beautifully. After thirty minutes went by, the invited were ready in their seats expecting to see the candidates. Grandma Megu, Tezuka , Grandpa To, Tezuka’s parents and sister sat in a line, facing the guests.
Everyone bowed to each other and smiled. “Hajimemashite. This morning, everyone will be the judges. The ten candidates will come in to serve you tea. If one of them was doing something that discomfort you, she will be eliminated,” Grandma Megu explained.
The guests nodded. Tezuka adjusted his glasses. He sighed when he remembered yesterday. Maimi slept late last , night. He was wondering that is she going to make it?
“Okay, welcoming all candidates!” Grandma Megu called out. Momoko opened the door and an arranged line of girls came in. Maimi was in beautiful pink-yellow kimono. Plus, her hair was tied like always. The tea ceremony was a Ryutei one. The tea was prepared at a special table. As the girls faced the guests, one by one introduced themselves.
“My name is Kazui Maimi. I’m 26 years old!” Maimi said and made a ‘v’ peace. Mrs.Fujimoto cleared her throat, glaring at her. The guests started to whisper. Tezuka glanced around. Grandma Megu sniggered. “Ladies and gentlemen, these are the candidates. Most of them are colleagues but that pink-yellow girl is the oldest candidate. And she’s sure older than Tezuka-sama.”
The guests looked at Maimi. Tezuka followed. Maimi smiled. “Hi guys!”
“Please have a tea,” Maimi said while handing a cup of green tea to one of the guest there. It was a woman, Grandma Megu’s best friend, Mrs. Tiffany. “Thank you, dear,” she replied with a sweet smile. Maimi chuckled and got up. She glanced around the room. Each contestant was busy serving their customers. She looked at Tezuka and her heart leaped with joy.
“Tezuka-san,” she called as she neared him. In her hands, she was holding a cup of green tea for Tezuka. She made it special for him. Tezuka rolled his eyes. Maimi cleared her throat sheepishly. “I made this for you!” She lifted up the cup and there was ‘Tezuka’ on it. “Please have it.”
Tezuka sighed. He looked at his family. Grandpa To smiled and nod slightly. Tezuka sighed and took the tea cup and sipped it. A cool sensation crawled down his spine. His eyes widened, slowly swallowing the drink.
“How’s it?” Maimi asked with anticipation. Tezuka licked his lips and stared into the empty cup. “What did you put inside this green tea?”
Maimi was surprised. She laughed. “Ice-cream!”
Tezuka blinked. “Ice-cream?”
“Um! Um!” she nodded with her eyes curved smiles. “How does it taste? I made it my own.”
“Whatever,” Tezuka said. He handed the tea cup back to Maimi. She pouted then stood up. As she stepped forward, one of the candidate lent out a leg and made her stumbled down. She accidentally knocked down onto the guests there and made the equipments on the table to scatter all over the place.
Maimi fell onto the floor and broke ‘Tezuka’ tea cup. Meanwhile, a cattle of full green tea spilled out on the floor, wetting two guests clothes. Everybody gasped. Maimi got up and her jaws dropped open. “Nani?”
The candidate that sticked out her leg just now stifled a laugh joined with the other girls. “What’s going on here?!” Grandma Megu’s voice seemed to increase. She was mad. She stood up and went to the location. “Maimi-chan?! Can you explain to me what’d happened?!!!!”
Whispers started to flood the room. Maimi stood up and bowed. “I’m sorry! Sorry! My bad!” She lowered her head.
“Look what have you done! The equipments have broken, you wet the guests and a cattle of green tea, you spilled it which it’s a waste!” Grandma Megu scolded. Mrs. Fujimoto neared her. ‘Oka-san- “
“Don’t you interfere, dear!” she said. Mrs. Fujimoto looked down. Tezuka got up and his eyes locked at Maimi’s. She was about to cry but she covered it by looking away. Tears flooded her beautiful big eyes. Tezuka frowned.
“Gomen, oba-san~. It won’t happen again. I promise!” she said, trying to smile while holding up her right hand. “I promise!”
Grandma Megu shocked her head. “No! There’ll be no more. You’re disqualified.” Everyone gasped slightly. Maimi’s eyes widened as big as she could. Tezuka’s mouth was half-opened.
“Disqualified?” Maimi asked. Tears flowed down her chubby cheeks. “Oba-san..”
“No,” Grandma Megu cut Mrs. Fujimoto. She glared at the 27 year-old lady with fierce expression. “You broke my ancestor’s tea equipments, you’re wasting the most expensive green tea and you run the tea ceremony.”
Maimi’s head was downed. She grisped her kimono’s sheet and began to cry. The other candidates chuckled. Tezuka sighed. Maimi wiped away the tears with the back of her hand and bowed slowly. “Thank you, oba-san.” Then, she turned around and started walking out of the room.
“Mai-chan-,” Momoko called softly in reluctant, knowing that she could not do anything to stop her. Grandma Megu cleared her throat and ordered the other maids o clean up the place. The wet guests were brought to the cleaning room. “Okay. Sorry for the interruption. I please you all to sit down. We’ll be waiting for the judgement session right away. Let’s shorten this part,” Grandma Megu told the guests. They nodded and sat down as usual. The candidates were thrilled. They were asked to sit in a row and wait for the result. Only one can be Tezuka’s wife.
Tezuka cannot stop sighing since the incident just now. He kept looking at the main door, wondering where would the old miss be right now? Did she wait or did she go home?
Go home? Tezuka thought. Then, there was it. After all of her hard work, these was the only she got? While he was looking at the candidates, he remembered the old miss’s attitudes during the cheesecake dating. She loved cheesecake. Very much...like he did.
Moreover, her back was so tiny and little while she was brushing the clothes. She was so dedicated to learn and practise for the tea ceremony. And....Tezuka sucked his hand into his yukata’s pocket and took out an ear ring. The old miss one. He shook his head. Why must he thought about Maimi during the nick of time? Why did he always remember her? His heart would always pound so fast everytime he remembered her.
Maimi cried in her hands. She was sitting on her luggage while waiting for a taxi or a bus to pass by. “Why I was fortuned to be like this? Always bad luck!”
She remembered her routine. Go to saloon and back to her old shaggy house. Every month, her stepfather would come in drunk and ask for money. She was hoping marrying a rich guy could help her mother and make her life better.
“Now what?” she moaned. She would be an old miss forever. “Oka-san...,” she cried in her palms.
“And, the winner with the highest marks is....,” Madame Pasta told the people in the room. Grandma Megu smiled broadly. Mr. Fujimoto just sighed. Ayase was a bit sad because her favourite sister-in-law wannabe was eliminated. Grandpa To glanced at his grandson, Tezuka.
By the look on his face, Grandpa To knew something was not right. Plus, he knew who was the one Tezuka would choose.
“Maimi Kazui,” Madame Pasta finished. The others were silenced. The candidates grunted unhappily. Grandma Megu frowned followed by the other family members. Even Tezuka was shocked.
“How come?” Grandma Megu asked.
Madame Pasta cleared her throat. She faced the old woman and said, “She was the only girl that covers the highest marks in past activities. Even you said that her sushi was the best.”
Grandma Megu tilted a bit at her words. She realised that now. She really did like Maimi’s sushi. Tezuka took a side-glance at his grandmother. Suddenly, a candidate stood up.
“How come she’s the winner? She didn’t make it to the last!” she retorded. Madame Pasta shot her a lion face. The girl gasped.
“The last task, the tea ceremony is cancelled,” she said. Grandma Megu got up, “What?!”
“Yes. That’s what you just say.”
Grandma Megu sighed. She knew she was defeated and no one could win against Madame Pasta. Ayase clapped her hands and cheered out, “Yay! Mai-chan is my sister-in-law!”
Tezuka glared at her. Everyone else was taken aback. Grandpa To smiled. Madame Pasta looked at Grandma Megu and she nodded slightly. Grandma Megu smirked, understanding her meaning.
“Nani? One hundred yen? Per one stop?!” Maimi asked the bus conductor. The man nodded abruptly. “But I only have...fifty yen,” she muttered. “I’ll pay you back next time. I promise!”
The man shook his head. “No money, no ride.”
“Who says?” Tezuka came along with his maid, Momoko. Maimi turned and gasped. “Tezuka-san!!!” she leaped forward and try to kiss him but he slapped her away.
“Here,” he lent five hundred yen to the bus conductor. “Although I pay, she won’t be home with you, maggot.”
The bus conductor was pissed off and got back in. The bus left. Maimi shouted happily, “Tezuka!”
Everyone went out of the room to witness the incident. Grandma Megu smirked. “Follow me,” Tezuka commanded. Maimi picked up her things and followed into steps with him sheepishly. In the mean time, Tezuka felt weird about why the old miss didn’t ask anything about that.