Outside Looking In, II: Uema Yuntaby Laura Bryannan
Fukashi's a girl! Can you believe it? It's just the most amazing thing ever. I'm so happy.
Once she told me, I looked at her and it was like, Of course! How could I have missed it? And well, you know me, I just don't think guys are very interesting, so I couldn't figure out why I liked Fukashi so much. He didn't act like a jerk the way all the other guys I knew did, but still, a guy's a guy as far as I'm concerned. So hooray that Fukashi is really Fuu. My yummy sweet Fuu, who I'm gonna steal from those two poops who don't deserve her and only like each other anyway. So there!
How did it start? At first we were all scandalized that Soong-sai hired a boy to help Kanna, and did our best to ignore him. I mean, the only male working at the teahouse is Soong-sai's nephew, Xun, who's twenty-five and married, so who cares about him? He washes dishes, cleans up and does all that yucky stuff, so we're glad he's around but that's about it. He keeps to himself and that's fine by us.
It's funny how things began to change for me once Shinshi and Fukashi showed up. Of course, back then we called them Wakana-sai and Wakana-kun, and everyone was sure they were doing that Japanese bushiwhatzit thing together, even though they said they were cousins. Yeah, right! That was another reason to ignore him.
But, strangely enough, I kept finding myself hanging out in the kitchen whenever I had a spare moment. Wakana-kun was polite, friendly and worked hard. Kanna's not easy to get along with. She's such a perfectionist she usually chases her prep cooks away within six months. It makes for lots of loyal customers and nice tips, since the food here is so good, but not for happy times in the kitchen. So it was interesting that Kanna liked Wakana-kun and hardly yelled at him at all. They actually got along, and Wakana-kun even seemed to like her too! All us servers were amazed, but it made life a lot more peaceful at work, so we were glad.
And then there was Wakana-sai, the most beautiful man in the world! Wow! Us girls would fight over who got to serve him when he showed up at lunch, cuz he was nice, tipped pretty good and...well...it was always yummy to get a close-up peek. If a guy like him ever turned to me I might consider it. He's sure prettier than any gal I've ever been with! We called him PON, Perfection On Noodles, because he ordered the same thing every time: stir-fry shrimp and vegetables with extra ginger, over noodles instead of rice.
I don't know when everyone started calling him Shinshi. I guess, for me, it was when my brother started training with him in the evenings. Shinshi's class has done a lot for my brother, so on top of everything else, I'm really grateful for that.
I've got two older brothers. The oldest is Uchi, who's twenty-two and married to a woman I really like. They have a little girl who just turned one and I love her to pieces! He's always been the best big brother, looking after all of us since he was just a kid himself, because my dad...well one day he walked out and never came back. We don't know if he's dead or what, but I swear I don't give a poop about it!
But my other brother, Toru, has always been pretty messed-up. He's nineteen, and didn't take it too well when dad left, I guess. I was only three when he took off, so I hardly remember him at all, but Toru was really close to him. Toru's been in trouble for as long as I can remember. Poor ma, she got all her gray hair from his stupid antics, I'll bet. He's the king of get-rich-quick schemes, foiled attempts at robbery and petty larceny. Even though that's pretty typical for a guy around here, he wasn't good at any of it, so he was more of a dork than most.
But lately he's been acting more sane, and I guess it's because of Shinshi's class. It's the one thing different in Toru's life, so that has to be it. He's got himself an actual job now. Can you believe it? Sure it's just a bouncer at a local brothel, but he hasn't had a job for years, so that makes me and ma really happy. I've always thought Toru was a good guy at heart. He's just kinda stupid and lazy, and ma always lets him get away with it. She never stopped working all those years he bummed around doing nothing but getting into trouble. Well, don't get me started....
So I had this crush on Fukashi and I thought I was going crazy. I couldn't stop thinking about him. He was so sweet and shy at first, but turned out to be a right kookoohead once we got to know him, good company and fun to be around. I was fascinated by his relationship with Shinshi too. That he was...you know...with someone as handsome as Shinshi. Wow. He seemed so young and innocent, it was hard to imagine. I didn't want to believe what everyone else was saying about them. But I had to admit Kashi did seem to adore Shinshi, just from the way he talked about him—not that he talked about him much.
Yep, I thought I was nuts, but I couldn't stop myself. I was forever dreaming about Fukashi: Kashi and me, Kashi and Shinshi, Kashi , Kashi , Kashi. When I finally pounced and kissed him, I hadn't planned on doing it. I just saw him out back and thought, Girl, it's now or never! It was so nice. Wowee! Much more nummy than I expected. I kinda freaked myself out, how much I liked it, and decided I needed some time to think things over. So I backed off and tried to understand what was going on.
But, oh boy, Kashi obviously told on me. The very next day, Shinshi came in for lunch and he looked at me. Oh, he always looked at me when he ordered, of course, but in an offhand way. That day he gave me the ol' once over, but not in a, Hey babe let's make it, kinda way. No, it was more like, Well, well, just who are you anyway? He wasn't hostile or anything, but it made me all wibbly inside to have his attention so focused on me, and he's been that way ever since. He sees me now, when before he wasn't paying attention. It makes me nervous and I do stupid things. He's still sweet, same as always, but I know he's watching. He notices, and it gives me the shivers.
And then, a few days later, Mugen-sai showed up at the teahouse. Oh man, that guy is scary. He's never done anything rude or bad, but there's something about him that gives me the heebee jeebees. Mugen-sai's arrival in the neighborhood created amazing, unbelievable news: Shinshi wasn't lovers with Wakana-kun, but with him! I was so happy to learn that. A flood of hope washed through my heart. Kashi wasn't taken. Hooray for Mugen-sai!
Until he actually showed up in my life, I kinda liked him. And it's not like he's been mean to me or anything like that. It's the opposite. The way he looks at me makes me feel all hot and embarrassed, as if he's thinking things he shouldn't. I don't normally get that from men like some of the other girls, cuz my boobs are small, and I ain't built like no swan. I'm strong and healthy and I think I'm pretty cute, but I don't get the leering types chasing after me much.
So Mugen-sai looked me up and down way different than how Shinshi did. But it wasn't in a, Hey babe let's make it, kinda way either. It was more like, I wonder if I'd enjoy you? I wonder what you'd be like? It was so blatantly sexual I think my jaw might've dropped, but I sure hope not. It felt like his eyes were seeing everything, turning me inside out—frankly assessing and finding me a threat. It was like he knew every naughty thing I ever thought about Kashi, and I could feel myself blush to my ears.
Thank god he hasn't shown up too often, and I haven't had to wait on him most of the times he has. But I can always feel him staring. It's impossible to ignore. The girls are all, He likes you! Well, I don't know exactly what it is, but I know it ain't that. I couldn't figure out why Shinshi and Mugen-sai should care that I kissed Kashi, but it sure got their attention and I was pretty freaked out by it.
So yeah, Kashi ratted on me. All the more reason to back off, I told myself. Shinshi and Mugen-sai made me nervous. Having a crush on a guy was bad enough. I didn't need even more male juujuu coming at me, so I tried to turn off my feelings. I tried to make myself stop liking Kashi, but got nowhere with it. He was just too intriguing. I couldn't figure out what was going on with the three of them, but there sure had to be something. Kashi got more and more glowy and bouncy. He was so happy, he was practically irresistible. My crush on him pretty much took over my brain.
And then disaster struck and Mugen-sai got sick. For weeks and weeks Kashi was totally freaked out and I felt so helpless. He did his job and didn't say boo to anyone, then zoomed home and didn't hang or play at all. Everyone tried to draw him out but it didn't work. It wasn't until Mugen-sai felt better that Kashi came back to his happy, silly self. I realized I had to know whether he liked me or not, so I promised myself that the first time I had a chance to talk to him alone, I was gonna toss it out there.
One afternoon he seemed to be in a really good mood, so I decided it was now or never. Kanna took off to run some errands and Kashi was alone out back, so I snuck out to pounce. Well, I sure got more than I bargained for when I did, huh? One, two, sucker punch! Right hook—Kashi's not a boy but a girl! I just about peed my pants when she told me. That was just about the best news I could ever have heard.
But the next day, when I asked what was up with her and Shinshi and Mugen-sai, she nailed me with an uppercut to the jaw—she's lovers with them both!!! I couldn't believe my ears. That was just about the worst news I could ever have heard.
“You said you weren't lovers with Shinshi,” I complained.
“I wasn't,” she told me. “It's a fairly recent development.” My heart sank. All those months I thought she was lovers with Shinshi and kept my distance, and it turned out she wasn't lovers with him at all. If I had acted when I first fell for her, maybe she'd be with me and not them. Geez, it was enough to make you wanna kick yourself in the butt.
“But I thought Mugen-sai is Shinshi's lover,” I said, feeling confused.
“He is,” she told me, blushing madly.
“So the three of you are really all...?” I couldn't finish, it was just too weird. She nodded, and I shook my head, thinking, Damn damn damn! Here I go falling for a straight woman again. Why does this keep happening to me?
I've only had two serious girlfriends, and I really loved them both. The first was my school sweetie Natsu, who was two years older than me and taught me about my body and love and all that great stuff. She and I were together for about a year when I was twelve and thirteen.
The second was the love of my life, Mika, who just dumped me about six months ago. We were together for two years before that. She was my age, but she always seemed kinda younger than me. My fluffy little bunny, she was the cutest thing you could ever hope to find in your arms. She'd never been with a girl before me, but I put her under my spell and she found me irresistible...ha, ha! Well, she did for a while, anyway.
Both Natsu and Mika said they loved me too, but they left me for guys in the end. Broke my heart, it did, especially Mika. It was bad enough that she left, but for a man? How insulting! And it wasn't like he was such a great catch either, so I just couldn't understand it. I vowed when Mika left that I would never get together with another lover who hadn't sorted all that stuff out and decided for sure she was a girl who liked girls.
So hearing that Fuu was with two guys was super depressing! I felt this sick dread. You're just gonna get hurt again, Yunta, I told myself. I could tell that Fuu had never been with a girl before, so why did I think I had any chance at all? What could someone who had two lovers want with one more? How could I compete with someone as beautiful as Shinshi or as erotic as Mugen-sai?
Well, it's pretty funny how things have fallen out, isn't it? There's trouble in paradise, I guess. So while I'm still super jealous of Shinshi and Mugen-sai, I have to say I've been grateful to them because they've practically thrown Fuu into my arms.
A handful of weeks ago I was hanging out with ma after dinner and Fuu showed up at my house! She'd never done it before. The only time she'd been over was with the gang from work, so I was super excited to see her. But it was obvious she'd been crying so I was concerned right away.
“What happened, Fuu-chai?” I asked, scooting her out back so we could have a little privacy to talk. The second we were alone she burst into tears again and couldn't speak for a while. I just held her, feeling bad she was upset but secretly glad to be snuggling so close. She sniffed, wiped her eyes on her sleeve and looked at me.
“Oh that Mugen,” she cried. “I hate him! He makes me so angry I could scream!” Wow. I was dying to know what happened, so I asked her, but she just started sobbing again. I decided it might be better to let her cry herself out, so I waited, getting my hug quota filled for the year. Finally, she calmed down.
“He was with another woman this afternoon,” she told me. “Someone I can't stand! I can't believe it. I thought he was through being such a jerk. I thought....” She was so upset she stomped her feet and kinda shrieked, enough that my ma stuck her face out the window to make sure everything was okay. I waved her off and she gave me a puzzled look but went back inside.
“Oh Fuu-chai, I'm so sorry,” I said, smooching her cheek. “Guys are always jerks, didn't you know that?” Well, that didn't make her feel any better, but it was the truth, so what more could I say? But I'm so bad, I was thinking, Hooray Mugen-sai! Even though part of me was mad that he did such a crappy thing to Fuu—he must be a total fool to cheat on someone as yummy as her—I was still happy to get the boon. I was flattered she turned to me for comfort and was only too happy to give it to her.
She stayed over that night, and it was a turning point for us. We shared our stories and got a lot closer. Not as close as I wanted to get...heh, heh...but we sure moved in the right direction.
Can you believe it? She's older than me! Here I thought she was only thirteen and she's really sixteen. She said she turned sixteen in March, but I didn't til August. It's only five months, but still...kinda puts a damper on feeling older and wiser, but I guess I'll have to get used to it.
When she told me how the three of them met, and some of the adventures they had crossing Japan, I was amazed. Her daddy walked out when she was young too, so we have that in common. What we don't have in common is I never saw my dad murdered in front of my eyes. I couldn't believe it when she told me that. She said it so calmly, not one hint of a tear, so it was kinda eerie. She said she hated her dad, and I guess she meant it, although I have to wonder about that. Something about that part of her story seemed a little forced, as if she was trying to convince herself more than me.
So she slept in my bed that night but I didn't attack her or try to make her. I decided it would be better for us if I took things real slow. I tried to remain true to my vow of No More Straight Girls, despite my raging hornies for her.
After that, we got a lot more friendly. We didn't talk about it, but we spent more time together. She ate dinner with us for a whole week and didn't go home till late. I was in seventh heaven!
My ma was impressed that Kashi-kun always brought something to contribute to the meal. Of course, my ma still thought Fuu was a boy, and I'm ashamed to admit I had my reasons for not cluing her in. I'd promised to keep Fuu's secret, of course, but it was more than that. My ma was so happy I was hanging with a guy she could barely contain herself. She treated Kashi-kun like royalty, and I could tell Fuu ate it up. My ma's a pretty neat lady, if I must say so myself, so Fuu scored even more points being so sweet and respectful to her. It didn't seem right to keep ma in the dark like that, but it sure was nice to have her be so supportive of my choice in sweeties for once, so there was no way I was gonna spill the beans.
Then I guess they all kissed and made up at the Wakana house, cuz Fuu got all perky again and spent less time with me for a few weeks. She was just as sweet and snuggly at work, but didn't come over in the evenings for a while. But then something else happened. Something that seemed to upset her even more than the Mugen thing. She came over and I could tell she'd been crying, but she was dry-eyed now. I asked her what was wrong, but she wouldn't tell me. She was sure in a rare mood, though. We sat in the back yard together and she had the grimmest face on.
“What's the worst thing a man has ever done to you, Yunta?” she asked.
“You mean besides my dad walking out?” I wondered. We'd talked that topic into the ground many times, so I didn't think that's what she meant.
“Yes, besides that,” she replied. I didn't have to think hard for an answer, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to talk about it—if she really knew what she was asking.
“It's pretty intense. You sure you want to hear?” She nodded firmly.
“Well, when I was ten, two guys my middle brother knew got hold of me. You can prolly imagine what they did. They did just about everything they could do, used every opening. Although they didn't beat me or cut me. I guess I should be grateful for that. But it messed me up pretty bad, you know, and it was impossible to hide when I got home. Freaked my ma out something awful and Uchi...well he killed them both. He's a good brother like that. My first lover helped me get over it, though. She was the best. Um...so what about you, Fuu? Now you have to tell me yours.”
She sighed. “Mine's not as bad, or maybe it's just the reverse of yours. When we got close to where my father was, I took off from...Shinshi and Mugen and tried to go on alone. Well, I got caught by these three crazy guys. And the one with the scythe....” She shuddered, and I put my arm around her. She snuggled into my shoulder and that made me super happy, despite what I felt was coming in her story.
“The one with the scythe put his hand between my legs and shoved his fingers inside. His nails were long.... It really hurt. I was sure he was going to throw me down and rape me, or make me...um...use my mouth, but he didn't. He just scraped me up in there, then punched me. I blacked out, and woke later tied to a post. I did get beat up. He hurt me pretty bad. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before and it was horribly frightening. So I guess our experiences were kind of opposite.”
“Did you ever tell...them?” She shook her head. “Did you ever tell anybody?”
“I'm telling you.” She looked at me hopefully. I couldn't help it. I threw my arms around her and she hugged me back. Sharing secrets can sure make you feel close to a person! But, yummy as it was, my curiosity got the best of me.
“But how did you escape?” I cried. “What happened? You can't leave it there!”
She smiled. I was glad to see it. “Mugen came,” she said. “Mugen came and killed him. He had to kill another insane monster just to get to the one who hurt me. And then, the third one, who I thought was a vegetable, shot Mugen, but he killed him too. Mugen's pretty amazing that way. He almost died for me. But then, so did Shinshi.”
“Oh my god! What about Shinshi?”
shook her head. “I'm sorry Yun-chan. We all have our secrets
in Ryukyu,” she smiled. “I don't know if I should tell
you that story right now. But I guess you could say that Shinshi and
Mugen have both helped me get over all that horrific stuff just like
your lover helped you. We've been lucky, haven't we? You've been a
big help too, Yunta.”
She looked at me so sweet, I thought she might let me kiss her, and she did! Fuu is such a good kisser, I wasn't sure how much willpower I was gonna have to be good. I'd been holding back for a long time, too afraid she'd reject me, either immediately or somewhere down the road like my other girlfriends. You could tell how much she loved Shinshi and Mugen-sai when she talked about them. There was no denying that. Yet here she was all upset and wanting to talk about insanely horrible things. I didn't get it. I asked her why.
“I was feeling so unhappy about something,” she began, “I thought if I could put it in perspective maybe it wouldn't seem so bad. So I was thinking about the worst thing a man had ever done to me, and then I wondered about you. I don't know if that makes any sense....”
“Well, what were you unhappy about in the first place? You were crying before you got here, I could tell.”
She shook her head and waved me off. “Oh, I don't want to talk about it. It's so childish, I'd be embarrassed to tell you.” She stuck to her guns too. I poked her about it a few more times, but didn't get anywhere.
I was just getting ready to kiss her again when we head a knock at the front door, and since it was kinda late, I couldn't figure who it might be. I could hear ma talking to a man, and then I heard her close the door. Fuu and I looked at each other and shrugged. And then damned if Shinshi didn't walk around the corner of the house!
“Your mother told me you were back here,” he said. “Could I speak to Shi-chan for a moment, Yunta-san?”
I peeked at Fuu and she smiled and nodded, so I squeezed her hand and scrambled up. “Sure, Shinshi,” I replied, and went inside. Of course, I sat right under the window cuz there was no way I was not gonna listen to their conversation.
“Fuu, what's wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing's wrong,” she replied.
“Mugen said you were upset about my going out to dinner. Is that correct?”
“Why should I be upset about your going out with another woman when you're lovers with me?” Oooh, Shinshi was bad! No wonder she was so upset. How exciting!
“I don't know, Fuu. I'm trying to understand,” he said softly. “Was it wrong of me to have dinner with Mother Au?” Damn straight mister. But thanks for helping me make my case that all guys are jerks, even you...and with Mother Au?!? Holy moley!
“I don't understand why you wanted to!” she cried. That's right. Why did you want to?
“I didn't want to,” he protested. “It wasn't my idea. She asked me and I...I didn't know how to say no. She made it difficult somehow.” Weenie! All I heard was sniffing from Fuu, so I guessed she was crying. He went on in a softer voice. Kinda made me all melty to hear.
“Oh Fuu, do you think I'm interested in Mother Au? Is that what this is about?”
“What else should I think?” came a teary voice. She was crying, the poophead!
“My dear, it never occurred to me you might feel this way,” he said passionately. Made me quivery, it did. “I don't think of Au-san beyond pleasant conversation. I don't think of her at all, Fuu! We ran into each other at the general store today and she cornered me. I would never have gone if I had known how it would hurt you. Please forgive me.” Wow! I was almost rooting for him, if only so Fuu wouldn't be all mad and sad anymore.
“Well, okay,” she said in a little voice. “You're really not interested in her? Mugen said you were.”
“No Fuu, I'm not. I don't think about her that way in the slightest. She is an interesting woman, a fine healer and a good mother. But if Mugen told you I was interested in her, it was for his own purposes. It is not the truth.”
I heard some shuffling and then she began to let out these little kitten mews. Oh man, they hit me right where it counts. They were kissing...and kissing and kissing. I could even hear some of the sounds he made and I gotta say, it was pretty hot to imagine what it might be like to kiss Shinshi. And then, after I was just about to...you know...make something happen in my shorts I was so horny, they stopped.
“Come home,” he whispered. No! I didn't want her to leave.
“Um...I think I want to stay here tonight, Jin,” she whispered back. Jin! Was that his given name? Wow.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Yunta's been so sweet. I don't want to take off just because we've sorted things out. Is that okay?” Wowee Wow Wow! Oh man, did that make me happy to hear.
“Yes, Fuu. If that's what you want,” he replied in the silkiest voice. I could hear them share another smooch and then I heard him walk off. “Goodnight, my dear.”
“G'night,” she called back. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I was gonna wait a minute or so, but she quietly called my name, so I went back outside.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Yes, I'm fine,” she replied. I sat down and put my arm around her. She snuggled into me and it felt mighty fine. And then she totally blew me away.
“Yunta, do you ever think about being lovers with me?” Aieeeeee! Oh my god!
“Yes, Fuu,” I whispered. “I think about it a lot.”
“You think you might want to try tonight?” Oh my god! There was that vow about No More Straight Girls. I really meant it too. Oh geez. I didn't know what to say.
“Well...um...wow!” I stammered, and she giggled. She leaned in and laid a kiss on me that curled my toes. Oh geez.
to be continued