Suziko’s, one of Tokyo’s many Sushi restaurants; the soft décor blending black and red; the simple square tables, bar facing the row of large screen TVs broadcasting the slender baseball athlete sliding to the plate gave the restaurant a hometown atmosphere yet managed to maintain some level of class. The music was rough but there were no tourists and the food was outstanding which made it the perfect watering hole whenever the group wanted something outside the usual burger joint. Aya and Shouta arrived first and secured a booth near the back where they settled in. He was glad to be away from the loud music and smoke and lights of Grunge and she was just happy to get out of the house. Aya fixed her short brown hair in her tiny mirror taking the time to admire her little black dress which matched her short heels perfectly. She sipped on her banana punch smoothie enjoying the thick mixture of blended berries and creamy texture.
“I was gonna wait for everyone to get here to spill it but I’m too excited.” Shouta smiled sipping on his coke. “I’m gonna start ma own bar.”
“What? Really? That’s awesome!”
“I know. It ain’t gonna be like Grunge but I hope to have some performers.”
“How are you doing it?”
“You’ve seen Ein before right?”
“I think so.”
“She’s a partner and she may know someone else who’ll help. I also have that money Dai gave me.”
“Oh yeah, you were gonna use that to leave town.”
“I don’t have to anymore.” Shouta said thinking of that asshole Miki, thanking his lucky stars he’s now dead.
“I’m glad you didn’t have to use it for that.”
“So.” Aya spoke after a beat. “Have you heard anything from… Akio?”
“No. Why?” Shouta eyed her suspiciously.
“Just wondering. I mean your relationship with him happened so fast.”
“I know. But it’s better this way. I don’t think exes should be reconnecting.”
“What about Dai and Kane? They’re reconnected.”
“No they’re not.” Shouta said indignant. “Okay they are…sort of.” When he looked into the girl’s eyes he knew he would be spilling his guts soon, it didn’t take long. “I don’t know what to really think of it.”
“Have you talked to him about it?”
“Yeah, sure. He says he can’t be with Kane but he never said he doesn’t want to be with him.” Shouta leaned forward as though spilling a secret. “Truth be told. I hate being in the same room with them because it just seems to be just the two of’em. They have this connection going on that pisses me off.” He fiddled with his straw wrapper.
“Dai really has changed…a lot and I don’t know if it is for the better. Before I could say with confidence that Dai wouldn’t see anyone else while seeing you but he’s been all over the place.”
“Not lately.” He corrected. “He’s calmed down since our relationship started.”
“That’s good. I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”
“I understand.” He sat back allowing himself to relax more. “Just as long as Kane doesn’t come around often I’m good.”
“Really?” The deep familiar voice attached to the smirking lips forced the two to freeze in place. Suddenly a dark cloud appeared over the overhead lights and it seemed to only target their table.
Dai fidgeted uncomfortably and searched his mind for a way to recover but decided it was better to simply ignore the remark. “I know it’s sudden but I invited Kane.”
Kane sat down and Shouta instinctively switched seats sitting next to Aya while Dai sat next to Kane on the other side.
“I’ve been all over the place lately. I was supposed to had met Kane yesterday so I decided to make it up to him tonight.”
“I see.” Aya nodded eyes darting to Shouta.
“Right.” Shouta leaned back in his seat sipping on his cola, the melted ice reflected his ruined evening. “Ya do know that this is a friendship dinner.” He said looking hard at Dai.
Kane laughed. “Friendship dinner? Oh God.”
“Forget it.” He exhaled long and loud. “How’s your grandfather?”
Dai removed his hand from his smile. “Up and about.”
“Up and about?” Kane reiterated. “He hasn’t gotten any better?”
“How long will you keep running the shop like that?” Kane focused on Dai.
“I have no idea.”
“Perhaps I can do something..?”
Shouta cleared his throat breaking up the small bubble he believed the two easily retreated to. He glanced to Aya who looked back at him, their recent conversation on their minds. The foursome sat in silence for a long moment and once the waitress arrived Kane and Dai ordered their drinks and settled in.
“Any new projects Kane?” Dai asked hating the tense atmosphere.
“I’m developing a new console. It’s nothing but a prototype so far.”
“Wow, are we talking PS4 level or Wii U?”
“Hopefully better than all of them. I want it to be a full entertainment suite complete with some form of holographic tech included. Apple is currently working on a patent for it that can be used without headgear, although I don’t know if it’ll be for their iphone series or another—“
“So what’s everyone gonna order once Kei gets here!” Shouta broke through the chatter.
Dai stared hard at him like a parent reprimanding a child. “Will you put out some exclusives for your console?” He turned to Kane.
“I’m opening a bar soon.” Shouta blurted.
“Really Shouta? That’s great!” Dai replied deciding to ignore how he muscled the news in.
“That’s a lot of money and hard work.” Kane added. “It’s more than just serving drinks and partying all night. You have to have a plan…”
“I do!” Shouta shot back. ‘Who the hell does he think he is to lecture me?!’
“Look it’s Kei!” Aya pointed at the door hoping to quell the rising thick atmosphere.
Kei giggled with a plump dirty blonde haired woman on his arm looking well past her prime; she squeezed into the too short black dress which looked ironically like Aya’s—a sleeveless pleated skirt with a ruffled hem just to her knees.
Aya smirked. ‘No contest’ she thought as the older woman almost burst from the simple outfit. The gang held their comments and greeted her properly while the waitress grabbed some extra chairs for them to sit.
“Sorry I’m late.” Kei apologized before glimpsing Kane seated with their group. He paused for a moment before holding his tongue.
“You didn’t tell us you would be bringing a guest.” Aya said shifting in her seat.
“I know. I wanted to surprise everyone. I see we have another surprise. Kane” Kei simply replied and greeted.
“Kei.” Kane replied.
“So we’re all here.” Dai lifted his menu.
“It’s really my fault we’re late. My husband was being an asshole and asking too many questions.”
Kane chuckled softly at the situation causing Dai to pinch his thigh.
“Husband?” Aya repeated the word almost wanting her to correct her. The gang sat dumbfounded. ‘She’s married?!’ everyone thought in unison.
“Once she divorces her husband we’re getting married and I can use my security job to support her.” Kei dreamily said causing Kane to chuckle more. Dai did the best he could to stave off the infectious laughter but found himself giving in albeit unwillingly as did Aya. Shouta cleared his throat refusing to give in.
“What’s your name?” Shouta asked.
“Namie.” The woman replied trying to pull up the slouching dress that barely fit over her bosom.
“I see.” Aya rolled her eyes catching herself before it went too far.
“Are you in college?” Shouta asked thinking it better to keep the conversation rolling.
“No. I never went, besides I’m probably too old.”
“Really how old are you?”
“Thirty!” Dai and Aya shouted in unison.
“Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, right?” Kei smiled.
“Yeah.” Kane added calmer than the rest.
“Wow!” The woman yelled in a manner of a person lacking in grace. “You are hot! Oh wait!” She bellowed like a child who had come up with the most brilliant idea. “There are two gays here! Oh let me guess which ones they are!” She clapped excited.
Aya looked wide eyed to Dai and Dai back to her both silently thinking about this woman’s uncouth behavior.
“It has to be you.” She pointed at Dai who kept his lips pursed tightly. “I mean c’mon! You are too pretty to be straight.” She smiled wiggling her index finger to try and hone in on the next target. “I’m gonna say the hottie next to him! I mean all the super hot ones are, right?” She looked to Aya for confirmation. Before Kei could stop the train wreck she continued. “I bet you two are the two friends who are gay and in love! I mean you can cut the sexual tension with a knife!” Kei touched her arm to still her mouth. “Just look at how his arm straddles the back of the seat. Practically around the pretty boy. Ya know it’s a sign of possession. Plus you two look great together, I mean it just fits, you both look so..I don’t know classy!”
Dai stretched his arm across the table taking Shouta’s hand in his much to Kane’s hidden dismay. “I’m with him.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She picked up her menu as if just realizing her blunder. “You don’t even look gay, though.” She looked over to Shouta her remark said in the tone of a compliment. Dai sat back taking up his menu once again, especially since he saw the grin on Shouta’s lips. He already knew what he wanted to order—the unagi bowl with sashimi platter and wakame salad but he needed to look busy before he said something rude.
“What does a gay man look like?” Kane asked although it was far from a question he needed an answer for. If no one was going to put this woman in her place he would.
“Uh.” The woman sat down her menu and shifted uncomfortably.
“Okay I’m just gonna get their sushi sampler.” Shouta barged through knowing where this was headed.
“I was just wondering since people seem to have this universal picture of a gay man they keep speaking of.”
“Kane.” Kei warned.
“It’s okay.” Naime held his hand. “Well I was right when I pointed out the first one over there. I was just wrong about you.”
“Actually, you’re not wrong. I am gay.”
“Well then I was right.” She nearly shot back wanting the line of questions to cease.
“So what makes you right?” Kane asked. “What makes Shouta straight and Dai and myself gay based on looks alone?”
She searched her mind for the least insulting way of explaining herself “Well you dress nicely and you’re both so well groomed.”
Kane laughed. “I get it. So Lesbians are frumpy and Homos are snappy dressers and I guess you can only tell if someone is Asian by their coke bottle glasses and buck teeth.”
Dai laughed watching the woman fidget the full gravity of her words sinking in as much as they could. Thankfully the waitress appeared to take their order.
Aya excused herself, scooting from her side of the booth. “Dai come with me.”
“Aren’t you…sure.” He watched her telling expression and decided best to see what she wanted.
“Going to the bathroom together?” Kei laughed. “That’s too much.”
“Shut up.” Dai laughed along at the awkward situation. “You know I can’t enter with you.” Dai followed Aya toward the back.
“I don’t care. I’m the only girl at the table and I don’t want nor have to talk to that Naime woman.”
Dai chuckled and quickly followed Aya into the woman’s bathroom.
She quickly checked each stall. “Good.”
“Wow it looks so different in here.” Dai gazed at the salmon colored stone tiles and delicate pastel soaps lining the trays. “The men’s room just has one bottle of hand soap…and it smells like piss.”
Aya checked herself in the mirror before turning to her friend. “I’m staying the night at your house tonight and don’t even think about turning me down.”
“Well yes ma’am.” Dai playfully saluted. “You wanna talk about that woman? Just what the hell is Kei thinking?”
“I definitely wanna talk about her. Oh my God!” Aya exclaimed causing Dai to laugh. “But I also want to talk about you.”
Dai pointed to himself in confusion. “What about me?”
“Bringing Kane here with Shouta around…”
“Kane and I are friends that’s all.”
“I never mentioned anything about you being more than that but the fact that you feel the need to defend yourself straight away is a sign.”
Dai sighed hard.
“Look, I love you, but I also love Shouta and I don’t want to see him get hurt. You know he doesn’t like Kane yet you brought him here and you’re sitting next to him laughing…”
“Shouta moved out the way…”
“What else was he supposed to do? Kane is your guest not ours…I’m just saying that the body language is a little…I don’t know…suspect.”
Dai moved to speak but Aya gestured to cut him off. “Like I said, We’re gonna talk about everything tonight. And I do mean everything…including what’s been going on with me and Kei. So I’m sure you’ll get your turn to have a go at me as well.”
“You and Kei?”
“When we get to your house.” She said turning because she didn’t want to see Dai’s expression.
Once the dinner concluded and the table was cluttered with half eaten food, empty plates, and other mess from the evening’s get together. The group rounded up to leave.
“I can take you home, Dai.” Kane offered grabbing his leftovers.
Dai looked to Shouta almost for approval, the pretense of his future discussion with Aya on his mind.
“I got work tonight, so might as well.” Shouta replied nonchalant. He wondered if he should even care anymore. Dai delivered a soft kiss to his cheek.
“Okay, let’s go.” Dai turned Kane and Aya.
“Aya?” Shouta wondered why she was leaving with Dai and Kane.
“I’m spending the night with Dai.”
Kei grabbed his girlfriend before she opened her mouth. “You two have fun.” He smiled shaking his head.
The sleek Bugatti parked at the shop, the doors lifted and Aya stepped out relieved to stretch out her cramping body. The sports car only had two seats and the girl was planted on Dai’s lap throughout the drive.
“Good thing the cops didn’t pull us over.” Kane said waiting for the two to grab their bags.
“I hope you enjoyed yourself.” Dai peeked his head in unable to let him go.
“It was interesting.” Kane smiled when he saw him smile. “With you I always enjoy myself. Everyone else could have left. No offense.” He looked to Aya.
“We’ll talk later.” Dai backed away.
“I look forward to it.”
Dai raised his head noticing the lights on in the shop for the first time and through the glass a figure lay slumped on the ground. “Grandpa!” he yelled heading toward the locked door fumbling with his keys.
Kane rushed from his car. “Give them to me!” he demanded and with Dai pointing to the right one he opened the gate and door.
The old man laid unconscious on the cold floor, phone in hand. Dai’s hands trembled as he searched for a pulse. “We have to get him to a doctor!”
Kane scooped up frail man and rushed him to his car cursing himself for only having the two seater. He sat the man comfortably in the passenger seat.
“Just come back for me!” Dai ordered and Kane wasted no time speeding off into the night.
“I’ll call Shouta and Kei! Maybe they can get us there!” Aya rushed to get them on her speed dial. But with neither of them with any major transportation, they offered to meet Dai at the hospital.
Waiting for Kane to come back felt like an eternity; he wrapped his arms around himself but not to shield himself from the chill night air. When Kane returned he and Aya piled in ignoring the discomfort and legal implications.
“The nurses took him away. They tried to get me to fill out some papers. I brought them with me.”
Dai tapped his foot rapidly on the floor; the wait killed him. ‘I don’t know how much more of this I can take.’ He thought as every single nerve in his body stood on edge. The scent of the disinfected disgusted him in its familiarity.
A young doctor approached clipboard in hand ready to inform the young man about the status of his loved one. “Mr. Uie . . .”
“Please don’t give me any more half-assed excuses and send me home with more pills!” Dai had enough with the same routine. None of the pills made him better. He just wanted answers. Someone had to know something. ‘This is a hospital for crying out loud!’
The doctor ignored the outburst. “He is resting right now but we do not know the cause. We are conducting tests and looking into it.”
“Right.” Dai said his voice filled to the brim with skepticism. “And how many millions of yen will this cost me just to tell me you don’t know?”
“How long has this been going on?” Kane turned to Dai genuinely concerned.
“Almost a year.” Dai hung his head. No more room for keeping up appearances, he was drowning and fast and reluctantly he reached for a life line.
Aya covered her mouth in shock, she knew his grandfather was sick but not for an entire year.
“Why didn’t you tell me?!” Kane spoke a little too harshly even for his own liking but to keep something like this a secret was too serious, not when he could have helped.
“It was minor issues at first. We went to the hospital but everything was relatively okay. But a few months ago things just got worse.” Dai pressed his face against the palm of his hands completely and utterly lost.
“What sort of tests?” Kane stood speaking directly to the doctor.
“EKG, X-ray, and well go from there.”
“Whatever.” Kane turned away his fingers pressing the touch screen of his phone.
“Dai.” Shouta arrived and quickly held him, he didn’t feel the body pressed against him wavering.
“Shouta, you don’t know what I’ve been through. I’m sick and tired of dealing with some doctor whose goal is just write pill prescriptions and send sick people home to get sicker!”
“I know.” the blond tried to soothe him although he only understood the gist of his outburst.
“All right.” Kane stood before Dai once more. “I have another doctor headed here to take a look at your grandfather. I can’t promise anything but he’s better than fucking Doogie Howser over there.”
“So ya can just call doctors to come at ya beck and call?” Shouta stated as more of an infuriating comment than a question. He sneered at the taller man for a long moment hating everything about him. His arrogance, his money, and the way his dark eyes pawed at Dai capturing his every movement and infliction and acting on cue.
Kane wanted to reply, something that would rub the blond’s nose in his own inadequacies but he didn’t have the time. He thought of the old man reaching for a broom handle when he entered their home. He had made such an awful impression of himself that day. A shame he carried secretly. He thought it best not to leave another bad impression at the hospital.
They waited. The night wore on and turned into inky black. Multiple phones rang at the receptionist’s desk and the women dressed in white laughed and gossiped about the day’s events. The java fragrance engulfed the waiting room and Kei’s stomach growled…which was going on for hours but he thought it would be impolite to head down to the vending machine. ‘To hell with it.’ He finally gave in to his hunger with Shouta following. The depression was maddening and not with the question mark status of Dai’s grandfather but the obvious terrible night of the nearby group of women crying in each other’s arms. The fear in their eyes when they entered spoke volumes, a petite woman with curly hair entered the back room followed by a nurse only to come out moments later in tears; perhaps confirming the identity of a deceased loved one.
The doctor Kane called finally entered the waiting room and approached the tired group of teens.
“Mr. Uie, I’ve pinpointed what your Grandfather’s condition is.” The young doctor stated.
Dai relaxed a bit, his slight broad chest sinking, his long fingers weaved together. He waited for the answers he’d sought for so long now.
“He has a deteriorating heart condition . . . and I’m afraid . . . he won’t make it. Not for very long. I’m so sorry.”
Dai was knocked into his seat. His whole body went numb. ‘This can’t be really happening. This is not my life.’
“Oh Dai,” Aya cried.
Dai snapped out of the trance he seemed to be in and shouted at the doctor. “Are you sure? This can’t be true!” Dai cried out. ‘This can’t be possible. This can’t happen to him!’ He finally plopped down in his seat giving up; a part of him felt Kane’s arms around him but he couldn’t feel anything really. This was like some sort of bad dream he couldn’t wake from. He finally gave in to grief and began to cry. He lost Shi and now his beloved Grandfather, what is this? ‘Is this some kind of cruel life’s joke being played on me?‘ It all seemed so unfair.
“Can I go see him?” Dai asked through his oily voice.
“Visitation hours are over and he won’t wake up until tomorrow. It’s better to go home and get some rest. I promise I will make him as comfortable as possible.”
“I’ll take you home.” Kane stood. He hoped the doctor could deliver more positive news but he was the best in the country. He knew he would not screw up.
“Thanks.” Dai stood ready to leave.
Shouta and Kei returned with an arm full of goodies for everyone.
“Where are you going?” Shouta asked.
“Home.” Dai replied.“I’ll take you.” Shouta dropped the junk food ready to go.
“I’m sorry. I just want to go home right now, I don’t want to wait for trains or talk about it. I’ll call you later.” He walked over to his lover planting a chaste kiss on his lips. “Thank you for coming. Please go to work. You have a bar to get started.”
“Hey, wait.” Shouta stopped him. “I don’t give a damn about the bar when you’re like this. What happened?”
“Heart condition.” Aya spoke. “He won’t make it.”
“Dai.” Shouta embraced him. “I’m sorry.”
“I just want to go home.” He parted from the blond and headed out with Kane. “Aya?” Dai looked back at the girl hoping she would come and she did; wanting nothing more than to spend some time with him.
“You okay?” Kei turned to Shouta watching him watch his lover leave.
“Yeah.” The blond frowned. The sight of Dai emotionally leaning on Kane instead of him shook him deeply. ‘Why not me?‘ The words permeated his mind.
‘Why not me?‘