Maimi could not stop smiling when she watched Tezuka live on television. Now, everything was clear. She was so glad. “Nezumi is a brave man! He’s my Nezumi!”
Peppei clapped her hands. She dropped by at Mrs. Kazui’s house to watch that live press conference before heading to work. Mrs. Kazui smiled with satisfaction. She watched her daughter dancing and cheering in the small living room.
“He’s my husband!” Maimi squealed, jumping.
Peppei stopped her. “Hey, stop jumping! Is this what we call a married woman?”
Maimi and Mrs. Kazui burst into laughter.
“Let me call him!” Maimi said, running into her room to take her cell phone. Peppei gasped.
“Wait, Mai-chan!” she screamed. Maimi froze. “Let him rest for a while. He must be so tired after all those presses.”
Maimi looked at her mother’s nodding. She pouted. “But I want to talk to him.”
Tezuka fell onto the leather couch in the living room and sighed deeply. His coat was left on another single couch. His tie was on the floor. He unbuttoned his upper white office inner shirt. His neat hair this morning turned into a mess.
The office suits seemed to make him feel like dying. After the press conference, he stopped at his company and worked likewise and met more clients. The clients did admonish him about the press. Everyone in that building looked at him like he was some kind of a king who had just came from other planet. Even the janitors joined the eye-to-eye event.
Tezuka thought after the live statements the tense situation would be back to normal. But he was slightly wrong. Everybody still felt weird with his appearance on television.
His cell phone vibrated on the coffee table. He reluctantly took it and lied back on the couch. It was a message from Maimi. He read it.
“Well done, Nezumi! Hope everything will be okay! Love you! Muuuaaaahhhh!”
“See? They’ve settled it. Everything’s going to be fine after that press. I’m sure,” Mrs. Fujimoto told her mother after dinner. The family was having dessert, eating sliced fruits in the living room. Grandpa To was discharged in the afternoon and he was joining the dessert time too since it was good for him.
Mr. Fujimoto took a slice of apple and nodded. “Yeah, they’re totally fine.”
Grandma Megu munched her orange while watching the stiff coffee table. Ayase bite her strawberry eagerly. “I joined the teachers at the staffroom. The whole school needed to stop running for a while since the teachers surrounded the television to watch Tezuka,” she said, smiling. She popped the strawberry into her mouth and took another one.
The others laughed a little as to lighten the atmosphere but Grandma Megu sighed. She put down her fork and swallowed. “I know, I know,” she responded. “Things are going to get better.”
“Of course it is. I’m here. Don’t you like the fact that I’m here, honey?” Grandpa To teased. Everyone laughed along with the maids who were standing in a line beside the wall. “It’s great to be home. The food here is better. You know what? The cabbage soup in the hospital looked like a bowl of oat with several dead Arowana fishes.”
A maid stifled a laugh. One of them who stood next to her nudged her by the elbow.
“Let’s call them to come here tomorrow,” Grandma Megu said. Both Mr. and Mrs. Fujimoto began to look at each other oh-here-she-goes-again expression.
“Mom, I think that’s not a great idea,” Mrs. Fujimoto declared. “They have just calm down so let’s give them some space. They need that, mom.”
Her afraid and tempted tone in her voice made Grandma Megu felt a bit annoyed. “I know that. It’s just that I want to make sure that they are really fine. Just go through a lunch would be great.”
“Today I got my mathe-,”
“Ayase!” Grandma Megu and Mrs. Fujimoto snapped. Ayase closed her mouth and look down. Grandpa To sighed.
“Let them be together now. Don’t stress them out. Even for a lunch, they feel trapped,” Grandpa To vowed. Everyone shut down.
In the need to change the subject, Ayase finished her last strawberry and said, “Today I got my mathematics paper and I-“
“Don’t you think Maimi is a bit….quiet nowadays?” Grandma Megu cut, ignoring her. “I miss her cheerful attitude. She remembers me of my old days.”
“As if you’re much like her, mom. You study etiquette back then,” Mrs. Fujimoto added.
“Mom, listen to me,” Ayase insisted.
“Yes, Ayase? What did you say,” Mr. Fujimoto asked. At least someone paid attention to her.
Ayase smiled. “I got C for my mathematics on monthly test.”
The usual swanky, shiny black BMW pulled in front of the old and low-price house in the breezy but hot morning. Tezuka came out of his car. He wore dark grey office suits with black waxed shoes. The girls who happened to walk past him bow with seductive mode.
It was seven in the morning but the weather was already hot. Tezuka adjusted his glasses and step into the house yard. The front door was always opened so he just entered. As he came into the little entrance for taking off shoes, he saw Maimi’s door was opened in half and there she was sleeping with her mouth wide opened.
Tezuka rolled his eyes. So, that was her face when she was sleeping. Mrs. Kazui went out of the bathroom with a laundry basket. “Oh, Tezuka-kun!”
Tezuka bowed. “Good morning.”
Mrs. Kazui nodded. “You did great yesterday. Well done. Are you going to take her home today?”
“Yes I am. There’s a lot of work to do at the building,” Tezuka spoke. “She’s great in mathematics.”
“I’m glad to hear that she’s working at what she bests for,” Mrs. Kazui told him. “That’s her specialty.”
Tezuka gestured a tiny nod and went into Maimi’s room. The room was so hot. Even a table fan on the floor produced hot wind. The fan blew Maimi’s morning hair. She was still fast asleep. Her legs were wide apart with her right hand beside her head while the other was next to her hip. Such a weird sleeping pose.
Tezuka waved his collar, feeling the heat. It was summer and the temperature rose in maximum speed. He squatted on the floor and patted a hand on Maimi’s shoulder. He shook her. “Hey, wake up.”
No response. He tried again. This time, Maimi tossed to her right and stayed in that position. Tezuka noticed her hair was let lose. That was the first time he saw that without those stupid ball-like hair bends.
“Hey, old miss. Wake up,” he said.
Maimi rubbed her butt vigorously. Tezuka frowned. He never knew she was like that. Totally gross. Maimi stretched out her arms and moved her stiff lips after hours of sleeping.
“Hey,” Tezuka called again, a bit louder this time.
Maimi’s head titled at her left to see her husband in full office suits. His handsome face made her heart leaped with joy. She got up quickly until her forehead hit him.
“Ah!” Tezuka shouted in pain, holding his forehead with his hands. Maimi got to her knees and said, “Sorry! Sorry! I-I-.”
Tezuka corrected his glasses and stared at her. Maimi put a finger at her lips and sat down on her mattress. Her eyes were smiling.
“You, have a very bad sleeping habit,” Tezuka blathered. He stood up and before he decided to leave, he noticed Maimi’s messy room. Her worn clothes were scattered all over the place making the room had its own homemade carpet.
“Are you a girl or what?” he grunted.
Maimi looked around naively. She grinned. “I’m a married girl.”
Tezuka took her singlet using two fingers. “And you call yourself a married woman?”
Maimi went to him. She grabbed the singlet. “Of course I am. It’s just that when I get back into my old room, my old habit seems to come out.”
Tezuka could not help himself from staring at her. He knew for the first time that he loved her hair was let lose down. And her morning hair matched her cute and round face. Tezuka cleared his throat, pretending not to blush.
“I want you to clean this room and get ready to go to work,” he announced, standing at the doorway.
Maimi pouted. “But-“
“No buts,” Tezuka cut. He looked over his shoulder. “You’ve given three days to rest. Isn’t that enough?”
Before Maimi could say anything, Tezuka was already out of her sight.
Everyone greeted Maimi and Tezuka as soon as they reached their floor. Maimi was wearing a white fluffy dress and an old pair of high heels since she did not have any office suits at her house. Her hair was back into a bunch of ponytails that Tezuka hated.
Ayaka bowed at the two of them when they wanted to enter their offices. Tezuka had already in his office while Maimi stood shyly in front of the workers place and bowed. “Good morning, everyone. Have a nice day.”
She waved. An awkward silence came. Ayaka rolled her eyes. Suddenly, a guy in black came rushing to her. He wrapped an arm around her neck. “Morning to you too!”
Maimi stopped to find his face. She doffed her head to the right, studying that corny look of his.
That guy giggled. He let off his arm. “I’m Reiya Matsumoto. I’m one of Tezuka’s best friends. I just came back from work at England.”
He took Maimi away from every eye. “I was the one who helped Tezuka with the blind date, remember?” he whispered.
It took a few seconds for Maimi to rewind. Finally she gasped. “Oh, it’s you. Nice to meet you. How come you never show up during my wedding?”
“I had an urgent call to England regarding this company so I went there,” Reiya explained. He spun around. “I want to see Tezuka for a while. See you!”
Maimi waved. She smiled sweetly.
“Hey, buddy,” Reiya called as soon as he got in Tezuka’s office. Tezuka looked up from his laptop and his mouth was formed into a rough, hardly seen smile.
“Hey,” he replied, standing up. “How’s it going in England? I haven’t heard about you.”
Reiya sat on his desk. “It’s work, buddy. Besides, I’m having my own vacation. It’s fun.”
Tezuka sighed. He sat back. Reiya turned around. He took a roll of cellophane tape and tossed it up and down. “I heard about that news. Well, don’t mind to explain. I’ve known it.”
Tezuka did not say anything, his eyes stuck on his laptop screen. Reiya got down to his feet and put both hands on the desk. “Want to fetch some pizza after this?”
Reiya was Tezuka’s best buddy during his work in Japan. They would go to the gym during the night after work. Besides, they would catch some pizzas when Tezuka felt like one. Ayaka was sometime been invited.
Tezuka shook his head. “I have a lot work to do today since the news. I always skip my time here.”
Reiya leaned back. He walked around the room. “And you have a pretty wife.”
Tezuka gazed at his friend. Suddenly, the door was opened. Andrew stepped in. Both Reiya and Tezuka glared at him.
“Good morning, guys,” he said, holding up a hand. Reiya neared him.
“You are?” Reiya asked.
“Andrew. Tezuka’s childhood friend.”
“Used to be,” Tezuka blurted without looking up. Andrew sighed slightly. He extended his hand to shake with Reiya’s.
“I’ve just got back from France. I came here to see my old pal and invest into his share,” Andrew explained.
Reiya smiled. “Well, that’s great!” he said out loud. “Thank you!”
“Not yet,” Tezuka barracked. “He’s a stranger.”
“I’m not a stranger, Tezu, and you know it,” Andrew snapped. Reiya who was clueless went forward.
“I feel like I’m a stranger here. Please explain,” he said.
Maimi went into the company’s cafeteria alone. It was nearly lunch time but Tezuka was conducting a meeting and it still hadn’t end. So, it was snack time to Maimi. Her favourite place in the cafeteria was at the corner of the medium-sized room. There was a vending machine.
But that day she felt so hungry. She decided to eat something that will make her full and healthy. Maimi went to the food bar. She scanned the line-up container with her index finger and accidentally hit a person’s chest next to her.
She gasped and looked up since that person was too tall. “Andrew?”
Andrew gave her his most charming smile. “Are you going to eat without Tezuka?”
Maimi nodded, her eyelashes flashed making Andrew’s heart pounded. She hunched her body in front of a container filled with doughnuts. “He’s still has a meeting and I’m sure it’d pass lunch time. I’m too hungry so I can’t wait for him.”
Andrew giggled and took a tray on the counter. He lent it to her and took another one for him. Maimi followed him toward the end of the food bar to start browsing the food again.
“What brings you here?” Maimi asked.
Andrew fetched three sushi rolls and put one into her tray. “I came to see Tezuka. I bumped into his other best friend, Reiya.”
“Oh, Reiya-san,” Maimi responded. She took two doughnuts just now and tailed Andrew toward the counter. After they had paid for their food, they found an empty table and sat across each other.
Andrew began the talk about he was helping his uncle at a publishing company nearby. He wasn’t that busy so he liked to spend time and meet Tezuka. But his presence was not that cheerful to Tezuka.
“I’m your friend. You can be my friend,” Maimi spoke, chewing her doughnut. She wiped away the crisp off her mouth.
Andrew sniggered. Instead of being rejected to meet his own best friend, he was delighted to Maimi, a cheerful, playful, open-minded girl he had ever met. A woman to be précised. He couldn’t seem to look at her as a woman since she acted as if she was in junior high. Her cute face could blind people of her real age. Maimi was four years older than he was and she was married to his best pal who was at the same age as him.
He admitted that being around with Maimi was like spending time with schoolmate. She was too cute to be a married woman. Andrew liked to see her face at the very first time. He knew she was a person that can easily bring you into a light conversation.
“Of course, we can be friends,” he answered, dipping his sushi roll in ketchup and ran through a small spoonful of wasabi at the edge of his tray. “I hope we can meet again.”
Maimi cackled. She drank her green tea.
“I’m glad everything goes back to normal after the press conference,” Andrew continued.
“Yeah, it is. I can’t wait to spend time with Nezumi tonight.”
Andrew frowned. “Nezumi?”
Maimi smiled. “That’s his nickname.”
“A mouse?” Andrew raised his voice in disbelief, trying not to laugh. “What makes you think he’s a mouse?”
“He loves cheesecake, right. So Nezumi is suitable for him,” Maimi said. She popped her last piece of doughnut into her mouth and munched it eagerly. “He’s cute like a mouse.”
Andrew finally burst into laughter. “Tezuka is cute like a mouse? I never know a person can be compared to a mouse.”
Maimi tilted her head to her right and gave him her cutest smile ever. Andrew brushed his palms while looking down at his empty tray, not wanting her to know he was blushing.
“Oh, can you give me your phone number?” Maimi asked with her big eyes. She took out her cell phone.
Andrew said yes and both of them exchanged phone numbers. Then, Maimi showed him a picture of Tezuka that she captured around five days ago. Andrew managed to smile and be happy for her but deeply inside his heart, it was telling him that he was starting to feel jealous.