Story Update! – ‘Snow in Shibuya’

Hello hello hellooooo!

I edited/expanded on my micro story, ‘Snow in Shibuya’, fleshing out a few side characters a bit more and expanding on some details. Enjoy!

-L.

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The room is dark, thick curtains cover the only window; thin lines of light try to peer from around its edges, but for naught. Victoria has been laying on her bed for God-knows how many hours now. She’s not really counting. Her right hand barely feels the hard plastic of her cellphone anymore. The screen is black, silent, but her sight has rarely strayed far from its crystal frame. A nightstand rests loyal next to her bed, the frame of a photo. Jaggy lines on the lower left corner snake briefly into the frame. Victoria is being held from behind by another woman, both are staring at each other, smiling.

She breathes in deeply, as if waiting, then with an index finger, Victoria presses a button. Light explodes amid the darkness, blinding her for a few seconds, but she’s not startled, not anymore. Alas, as before, no news messages, no calls. Nothing. The shadows around her elongate and twist as Victoria’s fingers brush the screen. Her nails are all blunt around the edges, the skin around is red in many spots, looking bloody under the light.

A subtle fragrance of lilacs floats in the air gently, before it used to drown the room, making Victoria’s head spin, but it felt good. Was good. At the thought, she turns her head with some reluctance towards the other side of the bed. Nothing to remember her by. Not even the sour smell of old sweat. Only lilacs and a blank cellphone screen.

Her memories of how it ended were too fresh, too painful. There had been a display of fireworks on the beach near her place, same as when they met, some celebration or another, Victoria could not honestly say for sure now what it was. But how they met? Somehow, that was more vivid in her mind. She also smelled of lilacs on that day.

Three years ago they had bumped into each other, fireworks exploded high above them. Veronica was eating an ice cream cone which promptly rolled down over her favorite red t-shirt. Of course she had to pick chocolate.

“Ohmigosh! I’m so sorry! I was distracted looking at the fireworks and—here, let me!” Veronica had no idea when a handkerchief had appeared on her hand, dabbing it with some spit while trying to grab ahold of Veronica’s t-shirt.

It was the eyes. Windows to the soul, she heard someone said once. Such a cheesy and trite line. But now that she was staring at those two gray pearls, she couldn’t think of anything else but that. “Ohnonono, itsnoproblem, really!”, she was tripping with her tongue, trying to get the words out as fast as she could: get the obligatory dispensations, then say something else. The tugging at her shirt brought eased her down, though her pulse quickened, “Really! It’s ok, you don’t need to—hey!”

“Don’t move, I’ll be done in a second!” She was scrubbing back and forth over the dark brown stain, her hands were quite long and delicate, but they were holding a strong grip over Veronica’s shirt. She wore a small, shy smile, Veronica thought, that could fit a cute porcelain doll. Dimples appeared on both sides.

Before the rest of her dignity went down the drain, Veronica grabbed the woman’s hand to stop her from cleaning anymore. “Thanks.”, she managed to mumble, blushing slightly, not really sure what had gotten into her. “Gotta go. Sorry.”

“Wait. Can I buy you a cup of coffee at least? I know it’s not much, and I’d be pissed if this had happened to me, so…I’ll feel really shitty if I can’t make it up to you somehow!”

Veronica blushed a bit more, her hand brushed her cheek without thinking. It was very warm. “S’ok, really.”

“Please?” The porcelain doll was now making a sad face. It was unbearable.

“Well…ok, but I take decaf. Otherwise I’ll lay all night with my eyes like an owls.” She extended a hand towards the woman, grinning and feeling slightly like an idiot. “I’m Veronica.”

A twinkly appeared on the woman’s gray eyes and her smile somehow managed to, if possible, turn even more endearing. The fireworks were all but a memory now as they continued to explode. “Small world: I’m Veronica too.”

Veronica felt the woman’s hands hands were a bit calloused, but she did not mind. Not mind at all.

Veronica & Veronica. It seemed funny at the time. Two Vs. That is what she remembered from back then. Now, she was the only one here. She tapped the screen a few times, the sound of an old manual typewriter echoed in the room.

I miss you, my favorite letter.
-Your V.

She pressed SEND, staring at the screen until the light from it dimmed, then, finally, went dark, swallowing her once more.

Snow In Shibuya

The cup warmed Christobella’s hands as she took a sip, letting the tea comfort her; it was her favorite brand of green tea. It had snowed yesterday, but the streets of Shibuya were already cleared up to let traffic flow at its regular frantic pace. “Shibuya is always lively, so many places to see that your head will spin!” Signore Yoshimura had told her long ago.

The lights of a nearby electronic billboard were advertising a new video game. A young Japanese woman, probably in her late teens, danced enthusiastically. She was dressed in a school uniform -skirt above the knee, no less-, brandishing what appeared to be a pink AK-47. “Happy lucky adventure, yes, yes!” The young woman’s voice was chipper and high-pitched, a cute doll wrapped in plastic. Years of living here and Christobella could still be surprised, or at least amused. Japan, never a dull moment. She smiled at the young woman made from a million tiny lights, now fighting what appeared to be a three-headed dragon.

Was the woman Satsune slept with a school girl? Christobella mused, taking another sip of tea. She did look rather young. Or maybe that was because Satsune looked old at her side. His arm around her waist. Christobella had seen them walking out of the love hotel one evening she was returning to their apartment from the supermarket. The tea started to feel a bit too bitter, Christobella set down the cup and pushed it away. Glancing outside the window, she saw the image of a smiling geisha on another billboard, she bowed while holding a vacuum cleaner that looked more like a spaceship.

Japan had been a land of contrasts from the moment she arrived. High-rise buildings of glass and steel sat side by side with small wood and stone temples. On her first day there, Christobella remembered a pair of geishas walking demurely on their wooden getas among the throngs of office black-and-white suits and skirts; a drop of color amid the monochrome. Both had smiled at Christobella with their snow-white faces. There had been less electronic billboards back then.

Satsune had been one of those contrasts that had seduced her. A man of quiet gestures and distant gaze, yet he would always have a compliment for Christobella that did not feel forced nor trite. Though a a serious business man, there had been something lyrical about him. As with Japan, it had been love at first sight. They tied the knot and made their perfect home for fifteen years. Until one day she took a left turn, instead of a right. The coincidence had been too perfect, she remembered thinking absentmindedly when she saw Satsune walking side by side with his lover. She would have laughed, but she didn’t. Not then, not now; it made her think of her parents. Another unhappy thought.

Her father had also chased after some young skirt back in Rome when she lived in her native Italy. Her mother, Vittoria, feigned ignorance instead of confronting him about it. After his death from a fatal car accident, she confessed to Christobella about her father’s infidelity, but only after she had switched back to her maiden name. Christobella was twice hurt. A father who went behind her daughter and wife’s backs; a mother who covered his lies for the sake of comfort.

Of course Christobella confided to signore Yoshimura. The older gentleman simply nodded once in silence, his brown eyes looking at her, holding some of the sorrow she did not, could not, feel. Back then, there had only been a deep feeling of being betrayed. How different things would have been if signore Yoshimura had been her father. Not only did her violin instructor, back then in his early 60s, teach her how to play, filling her head with wondrous stories about his country. He also spared the time to listen to Christobella; her fears, her dreams, her desire to visit Japan one day. Signore Yoshimura had died three years after she left, it was the only time she had considered returning to Italy. She would make the time to pay her respects at his shrine in his old home back in Rome.

Vittoria, you fool, she thought, alone in the apartment’s living room. Something tightened inside her chest. The telltale prickling sensation behind her eyes made her reach to rub them, but it was too late: she blinked and down rolled a fat tear over soft olive skin, already wrinkles adorning the edges of her eyes. They had phoned her all the way from Italy, some distant relative whose name she had already forgotten after she hung up. Her mother had died suddenly two days ago. Massive heart attack. She was 73. Twenty more years of life than her bastard father.

“Christobella?” Satsune had walked in the living room and was standing there, shifting from left to right. His voice was soft, almost tender. Of course he knew about her mother. “Do you need anything for tomorrow? I can have the chauffeur drive you to the airport.” He was not quite looking her way. Their divorce papers still had to be signed.

Christobella made no excuses for her father’s betrayal; she would not make them for Satsune’s. It had been her who filed the papers; that was that. They had settled terms quickly: she would receive a very generous alimony payment each month. He could afford it, seeing how he practically owned half of Shibuya’s buildings already. Satsune got to keep the apartment. She did not want it. Christobella had several planes to catch back to Italy to attend the funeral —her relatives could hold it off for a day, two tops. “Don’t bother. I’ll call a cab.”

The man who had been her husband for the past fifteen years nodded, standing there like an actor who just forgot his lines, then simply left without another word. Good, she needed to start packing. It would be a very long day tomorrow.

Memory Of A Tune

A valley of desire runs long and untended between trembling thighs.
Carry my wishes to them with the breath of a unrepentant kiss,
then, maybe, I shall swallow your little gasps; pizzicato notes on our merry old symphony.
Oh, how this smirk -is it yours or mine?- flickers our lovers’ delight.
I’ll be sure to whisper your name, so please, spare a thought for my lonesome;
one day I’ll be sure to remember it.

Coming and Going

We were out on the porch enjoying the Summer twilight, under its pink horizon. The air was a bit muggy, but we kept ourselves cool with some cold Heinekens, listening to crickets serenade us. Out of the blue, Masdall gave out a long sigh while staring at the sky. He sounded like a balloon being deflated. “What’s wrong, Mas?” 
 
“Well…”, he bit his lower lip like he did whenever he was feeling nervous or just a bit too shy around people, “…y’know how I love getting hugs from you? I mean a good squeeze.” 
“Love you too, babe, but I’m too comfy on my chair right now to get up.” I reached out from my chair and tousled those grey locks of his. He didn’t move, but kept looking at the horizon as it slowly turned dark.
“Ah, forget about it. Just being silly.” He took a long sip from his can without turning to look at me. Guess he was being serious.
I grabbed his hand and looked at him, “Can’t. Got an elephant’s memory, or so my mom used to tell me.”
This time he turned to look at me, giving out a small timid smile, like he was asking not to be put on the spotlight. “Ah shit, Cass…I grab a Heine or two and just get all nostalgic. I’m just talking out of my ass. Making too much hoo-ha out of nothing!”He started to scratch the back of his head, looking at his feet. Whatever it was, Masdall was having a hard time getting it out there. 
I gave him a look that pretty much said I wasn’t dropping it. Masdall swallowed twice, running fingers across that gray mane of his. It really needed a haircut. “Ok, ok. Fine, geez! Don’t have to give me such a dirty look…” He gave a low whistle. “Well, I just remembered how I didn’t get much affection back when I was livin’ with my folks. At all, to be honest.”

Childhood talk wasn’t taboo between us, but it rarely came up. This took me by surprise: Masdall was never really eager to talk about his family. “I think you mentioned it once, long ago, but…I didn’t want to force that talk.”
 
“S’alright. I know I can be a bit of a clam and keep shut all day. Yeah, I didn’t get much in the way of affection until I met you.” He squeezed my hand.
“Aw, I’m sure someone gave you some lovin’ before I came along.”
Masdall shrugged, “Not from my parents. Nor anyone that stayed with me for long. You really changed things.”
“Hopefully for the better. I’d hate to be the gal that turned you into an old bitter lemon.”

He bent forward laughing a bit. “It’s not too late for that! But all kidding aside…I wasn’t good with showing affection. You helped me overcome that. One hug at a time, and the rest followed.”
 
“You’re welcome, hon.”
 
“Though…”, there was the slightest crack in his voice, “…I sometimes feel…my heart aching some when you hug me. But only sometimes. Makes me think of them years back with the folks and how I never…”, and like that he dropped his voice.
 
I squeezed his hand softly in silence. The stars were already twinkling on the dark horizon. Somewhere in the distance, a truck passed by. A song was playing loudly on its radio. I thought I could recognize it, but then it was gone into the night.