Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Chapter five, 2017, defeat, segment five
Oh, it’s been a while.
Ulf rose from his chair and bowed to the trio taking seats two tables away.
“Who are they,” Jennifer asked and looked at the Wakayama parents and Christina’s grandfather.
Ulf received a nod in return, and a curious look at the foreigner across his table. He sighed silently with relief when Jennifer politely waved in just the perfectly awkward way a foreign teenager should do when confronted with adults in a country not their own.
“Noriko’s and Ryu’s parents, plus a friend of theirs,” Ulf added rather than telling the entire truth. Jennifer was asking too many questions as it was, and she didn’t need to know there was effectively a community of arrivals in Tokyo. Not that Mitsuo lived in Tokyo, but he visited both Christina and the Wakayamas often enough to be part of that circle.
“Do you want to leave?”
Ulf glanced at Jennifer and shook his head. “They won’t mind. I’m doing business with the Wakayamas anyway, so they’re kind of used to my antics.”
Ulf made a point of twisting up his wrist watch to show Jennifer how old fashioned he was. Funny that, he thought, there are schools here where you’re not allowed to wear one, but when I grew up all kids were encouraged to do just that. More than a difference in culture, Ulf understood. A difference in generations as well. I didn’t even know what a mobile phone was back then.
“Expensive?” Jennifer suddenly asked.
Ulf nodded. Wrong question, girl. Is it good, or do you like it, would have been better. “I feel uncomfortable without one,” he said.
They shared the first half of their dinner in relative silence only broken by chit chat pertaining to the food and the boat trip earlier. While very much a young girl Jennifer still showed she knew good manners if she wanted to.
Ulf glanced at her over his food from time to time. Not once had she used that devastating charisma of hers since they entered the restaurant. Maybe she really wanted to talk after all.
As they were finishing their main course, and Ulf mentally prepared to order desserts, he decided it was time to get down to business.
“Thomas, you said.”
Jennifer swallowed a bite together with some sparkling water. “Yeah, Thomas.”
“Do you like him, or do you want to pump him for knowledge about us arrivals?” Ulf knew he sounded callous, but this was Jennifer.
She hesitated for a moment, gave first him and then the table with the Wakayama parents a long look, and then she shrugged. “Both,” she admitted.
Ulf followed her stare over white tableware and met Mitsuo’s searching eyes. “You didn’t lie, so I’ll listen to you.”
“I’m intrigued, and have been from the start.” She grimaced and took another sip of water. “As you say he’s kind of boring, but he seems like a good guy, and I’ve never been much for the exciting ones.”
Ulf gave her a long stare. That was a surprise, but then he guessed someone like her could have the exciting at a moments notice. Maybe she’d been burned before she moved to Japan. “Continue,” he said and put down his for on the plate where it made company with his knife. Soon he’d order dessert, but he wanted to hear what Jennifer had to say first.
“I kind of made friends with Thomas in the club. He’s broken, you know.”
Broken, what’s with us arrivals and being broken? Ah, the other Jennifer. How could I have forgotten?
Jennifer looked at him, and as Ulf was caught in his own thought she must have taken that as a sign to go on. “They were living together, you know. He says it still hurts.”
Like Maria. It hurt for a long time. Still does from time to time. And my kids. Ulf nodded. He understood exactly what Jennifer was talking about.
“I don’t know if he’s ready to move on, but I can’t help myself. I’m falling for him,” she said.
Ulf searched her eyes for the lie, but he found nothing. Could it really be that simple?
“I’m living here on a scholarship. Alone. My parents trust me. Honestly I don’t understand why, but they do.”
Probably because you deserve that trust no matter how you behave. Parents notice the big lies, even if they sometimes try not to. “And you feel lonely?”
Jennifer nodded. “I wanted this date with you for two reasons. You seem like a good guy as well, but I don’t feel anything at all for you. I needed to know. I’m sorry if I led you on.”
In ways she was definitely more grown up than her years. So she wanted to know what kind of infatuation she felt. If it was real, or if it was just a reaction to feeling lonely.
“Don’t worry. I’m not hooking up with anyone anytime soon.”
“Still in love with Christina?”
Ulf smirked but nodded. He was. Seeing her didn’t hurt as much as before, but he was definitely not over her, if he ever would be. “Part of me always will be,” he admitted both to her and himself.
“Part of? So you’re moving on?” Jennifer tilted her head. She was very cute, but Ulf only saw curiosity in her eyes.
“In a way. We broke up. One day I’ll find someone else.” He searched his thoughts for a better explanation. “I don’t think I’m the kind of person who could live his life alone.” Whoever he met down the line he needed to be very honest with her. Worst case he’d hook up with second best. Best case he’d always compare her with Christina.
“I feel sorry for her,” Jennifer said and proved she had just read his thoughts.
I’m an arse. “I’ll help you on one condition.”
Despite the caveat Jennifer’s face lit up in a happy smile. Ulf understood she didn’t mean it this time, but her smile together with a surprised shout of joy had just about everyone within three tables turn their heads and stare at her in admiration.
Please, don’t do that! “Fine,” Ulf said and grinned. He might not be interested in the girl, but she was still his company, and being at the very centre of admiration like this was a huge ego boost despite how much he tried to deny it. “Thomas gets to know. I’ll help you, but I’ll play with an open hand.”