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Baishakunin, Inc.

Chapter Ten—Honesty Is the Best Policy

>> Chapter nine

“You have to tell him,” says Ginnie, slurping the last bit of noodle in her large ceramic bowl. We are in Mr. Ramen on First Street in Little Tokyo. There’s a more popular ramen house a few storefronts away, but I opt for more quiet and privacy, especially since we are talking about my new relationship with my office landlord, Jake Martinez.

“That I lied about my ex-boyfriend when he had trust issues with his past girlfriend?” Sure doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

“Well, it’s not like you’re secretly seeing Rick. You’ve just set him up without either Rick or Jake knowing it.”

“I don’t know. Jake would be suspicious. Like why was I lying about him in the first place.” I bite down on my lip, which is still greasy and salty from the broth.

“Well, it’s not like you were lying. You were just withholding the truth.”

Only Ginnie didn’t know that I had told Jake and everyone else in my matchmaking company that she had been the one who had a bad breakup with Rick.

“He’s going to find out, Bean. You know it’s only a matter of time.”

“Anyway, enough of all that.” I wipe my mouth with a paper napkin. “How’s everything with the wedding?”

“Well, Matt’s mother’s driving me crazy. My mother’s driving me crazy. And, of course, Jamie is driving me crazy. Oh, why couldn’t you be my bridesmaid?”

“Because I wouldn’t have time to help you buy your dress and I would make a mess of your favors. I do better on the sidelines.”

“Yeah, like the lookie-loos watching a traffic accident after it’s happened.”

“It’s not that bad, is it?”

“It is pretty bad. Matt and I have talked about eloping. I’m not kidding. My only joy is following the problems with your love life.” She places some money on a plastic tray on our table.

“As long as I can be of help.” I add another ten-dollar bill to Ginnie’s contribution and rise from my seat.

We walk out of the restaurant and the sun breaks through the clouds. I narrow my eyes and don’t believe what I’m seeing across First Street. It’s the slim, perfectly coiffed figure of Michele Sakanashi, Rick’s dream girlfriend, holding hands with a guy in sunglasses who is not Rick.

“Bean, where are you going?”

There’s a light at the crosswalk, but I don’t wait for the WALK signal to flash. I dash across First Street and head off the happy couple.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I say, planting myself right in front of Michele.

“Shell, you know her?” the guy with the sunglasses asks. He’s tall with moussed hair. Doesn’t he know that look went out in the eighties with Miami Vice pastel-colored jackets?

“It’s okay, Damon. I know her.” She tells him to wait for her in the gift store, Bunkado.

Once he’s safely disappeared in the store, Michelle addresses me. “Listen, I was going to tell Mrs. Oizumi, but I just didn’t know how.”

“Who is he?”

“My ex-boyfriend. He’s been doing medical work in Latin America. He’s back in L.A. and we just got together to catch up and—”

“Does Rick know?”

Michele’s perfect skin flushes.

“You did tell him, didn’t you?”

Michele’s perfect lips purses.

“Don’t tell me. You texted him.”

Michele shakes her head and looks down at the sidewalk. “I Tweeted it.”

Announced it on Twitter? A social-networking site for all followers to see? What could she have possibly said in 140 characters or less?

“It was actually a haiku: Once separated / Mexico in between / Now united. How would I know that Rick would figure it out? You know that he’s been doing background checks? He’s been spying on me and I think that he’s been stalking me at work. He’s one strange dude, you know.”

“I’m sure that he wasn’t stalking you, Michele.” Believe me, I was no fan of Rick, but he wasn’t the stalking type.

“I’m not making this up,” she insists. “I don’t know how Mrs. Oizumi could have possibly thought that he’d be a good match with me.” The more Michele spoke, the more defensive she became. “You know, I’m actually thinking of suing Baishakunin, Inc. It’s a lousy match-making service and I’m thinking of asking for a refund.”

“A refund? Baishukunin did everything in good faith,” I say this out loud, but deep down inside, I do have doubts. My gut had told me from the beginning that Jake would have been a more compatible match for Michele, but my own heart and selfishness wanted Jake free for myself. “Isn’t this more about you getting back with your ex?”

“Look, I just want my money back. Maybe Mrs. Oizumi will feel differently once I start posting some bad reviews on yelp,” threatens Michele. I notice that her two front teeth are slightly crooked, why hadn’t I noticed that before?

The Yonsei Don Johnson walks out of Bunkado, the top of his helmet head brushing the noren hanging in the doorway. “You okay, Shell?” he asks.

Michele’s face immediately softens when she sees her man. “I have to go.” Her eyebrows then sharpen into daggers when she turns back to me. “Don’t talk to me again or I’ll ruin Baishakunin and Mrs. Oizumi.”

***

My head is in a fog as I walked back to my office alone. Ginnie had to run and meet with her wedding photographer. I didn’t want to tell her about Michele’s threat to commit Internet homicide on my fledgling business. Ginnie had enough to worry about with her wedding extravaganza in two weeks.

I take the ragged elevator to the third floor. Maybe Ginnie is right. I need to tell Jake the whole truth. What do they say, “honesty is the best policy.” And maybe Jake, with his calm demeanor, can help me out of this mess.

I’m so focused on my current crisis that I barely register somebody sitting on the floor by my office door. It’s some Asian man in a suit. And it turns out not to be just any Asian guy, but my ex Rick, his hands covering his face.

Even though, he had stomped on my heart and taken away my self-respect for seven years, what I feel most is guilt. Maybe this is what I had wanted, Michele hurting him as much as he had hurt me. But actually witnessing it didn’t make my own past hurt go away. In fact, it makes me feel worse.

He senses that someone is breathing above him and lifts up his heads. “Caroline,” he says, surprised but not embarrassed. “What are you doing here?”

Chapter eleven >>

* "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 série

"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