“I can’t do that. She’s hurting and I want to be here now.”
Noriko listened to the silence following those words. Kyoko spoke on the phone, with Yukio most likely.
“No! Look there’s a guard in a car outside, and I don’t care that you don’t trust Kuri-chan.”
What? Trust Kuri?
“Yes. Noriko’s hurt and you just have to wait, OK!” A hard, rapping sound told Noriko Kyoko had slapped the phone to the table a little harder than was good for it. “Damn he can be so stubborn sometimes.”
Kyoko came back from her call and clasped Noriko’s hands in her own. As if that had been a signal, Kuri rose and punched a call of her own.
“Are you sure you don’t want to talk it over with Nao-kun?” Kyoko wondered for the umpteenth time.
Noriko shook her head. Talking with Nao was the last she wanted to do right now. First she had to wrap her head around his message. Slept with a girl? That can’t mean… can it? But there really was only one way to interpret the message. But maybe I read it wrong.
She needed her phone to know for sure, but she had lost it somewhere.
“I don’t care. Cancel the shoot.”
Noriko felt Kyoko flinch at those words. Going back on a promise to work was alien to her. Noriko could understand why one might have to, but on a fundamental level she agreed with Kyoko on this.
“No. You stupid little fuck. Mess with me and I’ll trash the next shoot, so just cancel this one and shut the hell up!”
This time both Noriko and Kyoko flinched.
“Yes, I can sit this one out. For two years and start working in Europe instead if I have to. Wrap your tiny brain around that you shit-head!”
Kuri didn’t slam her phone to the table, but it disappeared into a pocket in her baggy clothes. She’d changed into them a little earlier when her bodyguard arrived at Noriko’s home for the second time, this one with two bikes and a bag of clothes.
The first he’d joined them in the car driven by the escort assigned to Kyoko and Yukio. The other half of that escort waited at school for Yukio to finish. Three bodyguards, plus the one Vogue sometimes added when the magazine deemed it too dangerous for Kuri to be out with only one guard.
Who was that?” Noriko asked. Anything was better than talking about Nao.
Noriko flinched again. Talking with someone superior in that way was alien to her.
“Look, Noriko, he made me go through what you’re feeling now, and I had to do it to myself.”
I suspected as much.
“Besides, he’s powerless if I quit modelling.” Noriko felt Kuri’s hands caressing her head. Long, slender fingers, entirely different than her own small ones. “He already cost me my love. I’ll be damned if I’ll let him have my friends as well.”
Noriko looked up and met Kuri’s eyes. “Your still not supposed to behave like that in Japan.”
“I’m not Japanese. I’ll never be. Given the way they treat women here I don’t want to.” The last came out like a whiplash. “Urufu is tedious with his comparing with Sweden all the time, but don’t believe for one second that I don’t agree with him!”
Kuri’s sudden wrath almost had Noriko want to talk about Nao again. Almost. I forgot she’s hurting as well. I didn’t know it could hurt this way. Noriko fought down her tears. She wasn’t the emotional kind anyway, and she really didn’t want to burden her friends with how empty she felt after Nao’s message, or how her self-image was one of a discarded dishcloth. She didn’t want them to see…
Two pairs of arms wrapped her in a hug, and Noriko broke down again, just like she had done over and over the last hours.
He slept with a girl?
Then what she really wondered, and what really hurt struck her. He slept with a girl who wasn’t me? Thinking that was oddly disturbing. Not once had she tried, or even wanted, to get into bed with Nao, but now, now after that message, Noriko felt betrayed because Nao hadn’t tried to seduce her first.
I’m not rational. But then again, rational didn’t hurt this way. Rational wasn’t raw emotions. Rational wasn’t love.
“What the hell?”
Kuri’s voice broke Noriko’s chain of thought, and she felt Kuri release her embrace and fish up her phone to get yet another incoming call.
“Ulf, why is he calling me?”
Despite the pain in her chest Noriko heard how Kuri’s voice almost broke.
“Christina here, you want something?”
A few moments of silence followed.
“Noriko, it’s for you.”
For me? Noriko took the phone. “Yes?”
“It’s me, Ulf,” Urufu said. “I have your phone. Do you want me to hand it to your brother, or should I hold on to it until we meet next?”
Would be easiest to have Ryu handle it. But Noriko knew her brother would rummage through the contents of her phone if he got his hands on it. “Would you keep it for me?”
“Will do. I’ll have if fixed as well.”
“It’s in pretty bad shape.”
Bad shape? Oh, yes, I dropped it on the floor. Then Noriko recalled how expensive it was to get phones repaired. “Eh, Urufu, don’t mind. I’ll handle that part myself.”
“No problem,” came the voice from the other end. “It’s only money. Until a while ago I had a reason to save them, but it’s no longer there.”
Urufu, you do know that your voice can be heard in our end as well? Noriko looked up and met Kuri’s eyes just as she flinched. Yeah, she heard al-right. You had no reason hurting her.
But that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true at all. Kuri clinging to her idiot bro was enough to make Noriko want to hurt her, or at least had been until Nao’s message.
“Whatever, just as long as I’m not without a phone for too long,” Noriko said. Moments later she finished the call.
Thank you Urufu. Making me worry about something different took my mind off Nao.
Had that been the purpose? With Urufu you never knew.
“Feeling better?” Kuri asked. “He knows how to make you angry in a good way. Up to some tea and sweet pastries?”
“Bribing me?” Noriko said.
“Sure are,” Kyoko said from her place behind Noriko. “Bribing is good.”
Noriko smiled for the first time that afternoon and rose to her feet. “Consider me bribed.”