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Baishakunin, Inc.

Chapter Eleven—Cold Imagawayaki

>> Chapter ten

Of all the people that I decide to be completely honest with, it shouldn’t be him.  I should be confessing to my best friend, bride-to-be Ginnie Lee; my staff at Baishakunin, Inc; or the guy who I was just starting to date, my landlord Jake Martinez.  But no, I’m not spilling my secrets to any of them.  Instead, I am sitting on the floor of a hallway of a Little Tokyo building, next to my snake of an ex-boyfriend, Rick.  The man who was so scared of the truth that he ran from it and me like a 500-yard dash seven years ago.  But now he was the one with a broken heart in Little Tokyo.  So I tell him everything.

“That’s how Baishakunin started,” I conclude.  “It’s actually my company.”

“You could have been its face.  It didn’t have to be that old lady,” he says, referring to Oizumi-san, whom I selected to be its figurehead.

“No one thinks that I can fix anyone up.  Look at me—still single in my late thirties.  Not a great relationship resume.”

Rick turns to me.  “It was my fault, you know.  Our relationship.  I just couldn’t take the next step.  I was scared.  I wasn’t ready for marriage.”

“It would have helped if you just told me, Rick.”

“I’ve never been that good in communicating.  You know that.”

“And Michele—is it true that you were stalking her?”

“Is that what she told you?  Talk about being a bad communicator—I didn’t know what was going on with her half the time.  If I didn’t look through her Blackberry, I would have gone crazy, worrying about where she was.  I only found out that she was back with her ex-boyfriend through Twitter.”

Rick then starts laughing.  “I guess it comes down to bachi, huh?  I finally got what I deserved.”

I pause for a moment.  I don’t feel joy.  I don’t feel vindication.  I just feel sadness.  I reach out my hand and hold on to his hand and squeeze.  It’s a simple gesture, but we both know what it means.  I forgive you.  Let’s let go.  It’s all in the past.  Rick then presses his lips to my knuckles.  It’s not romantic.  Only bittersweet.  We are finally saying goodbye to one another.

We are so caught up in the moment that I don’t hear the rickety elevator open.

Jake stands in front of us.  “What’s going on?”

I immediately release Rick’s hands and I scramble to my feet.

“Just making amends.”  Rick says to Jake from his seat on the floor.

Jake frowns.

“We used to go out.”

***

“Why didn’t you tell me?  Is this how you get off?  Telling guys stories?”  Rick had left, leaving me and Jake to duke it out in the hallway.

“It was seven years ago.  I didn’t think that it was worth mentioning.”

“Then why did you lie and say that he was Ginnie’s ex-boyfriend.”

“Ah—” he had me there.

“Is that whey I was brought in?  Maybe a guy to make your ex jealous?”

“No, it’s not like that.  I didn’t want to get back with him.  That’s why I matched him up with Michele Sakanashi instead of you.”

Jake’s eyes widened.

 “I mean, at the time, I thought Michele was a real catch, the best girl in our system.”  The hole that I’m digging is just getting bigger and bigger.  “I liked you, Jake.  I guess a part of me wanted you to be available.”

“So that’s how you operate.  Everything is for you—no matter how it could hurt other people.  Now it all makes sense—how you can easily pretend that Oizumi-san is in charge.  You’re a master liar.”

“No, that’s not—”

“Look, I’m too old to play games.  And I’ve been in this place before.”

“No, Jake, you don’t understand.”  I had lost my job and I feared losing my condominium.  My family had written me off as a failure.  I needed to make Baishakunin, Inc. successful.  But then I realize all of those explanations would just confirm Jake’s accusations.  I’ve been just out for myself.

We stand there awkwardly and I notice that Jake’s holding a small white bag.

“Here, this is for you.”  He hands the bag to me and then walks away to the elevator.

“Don’t call me,” he says.  “And remember, your rent’s due in two days.”  The elevator door opens and he gets in.

No, no, no, I cry out inside.  This can’t be happening.  Here I’m finally able to forgive my ex, and the guy who I’m really into has broken up with me.

I know what’s in the bag even before I open it from the smell—imagawayaki, my favorite. 

Perfectly cylindrical pancakes with an inside.  I guess that it’s an ancient Japanese dessert; I’ve known it my whole life from my childhood trips to Little Tokyo.  I had told Jake how much I loved them.  He had remembered.

I finally look inside.  There are two nestled next to each other in the aluminum-lined bag. Instead of being warm and steaming as usual, however, the imagawayaki have gone cold.

Chapter twelve >>

* "Baishakunin, Inc." is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

© 2009 Naomi Hirahara / Image: Neal Yamamoto and Vicky K. Murakami-Tsuda

baishakunin Baishakunin, Inc. fiction little tokyo naomi hirahara romance serialized story

Sobre esta serie

"Baishakunin, Inc." is a new work of fiction from Naomi Hirahara the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series and two biographies published by the Japanese American National Museum. Its main character, Caroline Mameda, starts her own match-making business after being fired from her job. Set in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

Read Chapter One