Chapter One

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was already on my third can of beer when there came a knock on my apartment door.  I hadn’t ordered any delivery health service, and I don’t invite my coworkers to my home, ever.  My rent was paid, and there was nothing broken in my home, which ruled out my landlord or a repairman.  So, was it a solicitor, perhaps?  This apartment complex doesn’t allow that sort of thing, which had me wondering who in the world would bother me at this time of day.  It wasn’t until the second knock that I begrudgingly got up and went to answer the door.  I almost wish I hadn’t.


Standing in front of me was someone I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Furumachi Miki.  My wife, who ran away with another man five years ago.  Furthermore, she wasn’t alone.  With a head level to her waist was a small girl who looked just like my wife, only around four years old.  What should have happened then and there was for me to close the door before she could open her mouth and say even a single word.  However I was caught so off-guard by her sudden reappearance, that I missed the chance.


Suddenly she disappeared from my view.  I had thought I was hallucinating for a moment until I just so happened to look down.  My runaway wife, the one who slept with another man and was subsequently stolen from me, had dropped to the ground and was now performing a dogeza.  To make matters worse, so was the little girl next to her.

“Please, Tsubasa.  I have nowhere else I can go.  Even if it’s only for a short while, please let me stay here with this one.  I won’t disturb you, I swear!”

I was staring down at my whore wife and what was obviously her child. 

Her child.

The only other thing of note was a single blue luggage roller which was just to the side.  It barely looked like it had enough clothes for her, let alone the child.  Neither Miki or the little girl said a single word further, only hanging in limbo waiting for my reply.  To any sane, rational human who has experienced such a thing as I have, the obvious answer would be to say no.  In fact, I would be spitting in the face of the gods who gave me this chance to pay back this woman who was most likely at the lowest point of her life right now if I didn't say no.  It would be an even sweeter sort of revenge, too, because she has a child with her that’s almost certainly not mine.

She has to know how shameless it is to be doing what she is.  To have her own child accompanying her in doing a dogeza without any merit at all.  Now that I’ve seen her, I should be satisfied in being able to close the door on this woman who has caused me half a decade of intense grief and suffering.  That I should now have the chance to close the door on that chapter of my life.

The problem, however, lies with me.

I’m not a cruel, vengeful sonofabitch, even if every cell in my body is screaming at me to be one right now.  Because no matter how I look at the situation, I never filed for divorce, and neither did she.  The woman down on the ground was Furumachi Miki, still my legal wife according to the records kept at the government offices, and that would make that little girl, as detestable as it sounds, though I would need to check with my attorney to be sure, legally, if it's so, my daughter.

Rather than answer, I simply left the door open and turned around, walking back inside.

It wasn’t an invitation inside exactly, but I had a number of empty beer cans on the table in the living room, and I hadn’t yet gotten around to cleaning the apartment well enough to receive a visitor or two.  From the moment Miki left my life five years ago, I had stopped living as a human being.  I had been unable to move on, or move forward with my life properly.  Everything was pretty much as it was when she was still my Miki.  The only thing to change in that entire time was that I had tried to fill the void she left with a hobby, and once with a woman, though it didn't get intimate.  In the case of the hobby, I took up exercising.  It was something easy enough to do, and I could even do it even after having a few beers.

I collected the cans and brought them to the kitchen to be disposed of in the garbage.  The door to my apartment remained open, and both of them still remained in an unmoving dogeza.  Rather than anger, the mortifying thought that any of my neighbors might see them was the most pressing concern I had.  A woman and a child performing a dogeza outside of an otherwise single man’s apartment?  I don’t need that kind of notoriety.

“Don’t shame me in front of the neighbors.”  I said to her in an emotionless voice, punctuated by the sounds of three empty beer cans clanking against each other as they were thrown into the trash bin in the kitchen.

A few moments later, someone who shouldn’t have ever had the nerve to set foot into this apartment again, had, along with two pairs of shoes which didn’t belong in the entryway, walked in, tugging a blue roller luggage case by the handle behind them.  The apartment was a 2LDK, two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen.  It was spacious, the intent being that we would one day start a family of our own and live here happily. That dream had since been destroyed, but conveniently that meant there was a spare bedroom the two of them could share.

“The spare room has a futon in the closet.  It might be a bit dusty, but I haven’t had a reason to go in there in some time.”

The words flooded out of my mouth unconsciously.  I didn’t even really know what I was saying.  The only thing I did know, was that I didn’t.  I didn’t have a single fucking clue as to what I was supposed to do here.  It was a surreal moment I never truly expected to happen, and I almost wanted to flee because it had.  However, this was my apartment.  One I had been paying rent on since I first signed the lease eight years ago, back when we were a newlywed couple.  Just because she showed up again, and with a child in tow, didn’t mean I was about to let either one of them make me feel unwelcome in my own home.

A man’s home is his castle.

It was something my father often said to me.  Right now, though, it felt like a prison.  A prison of numbness doing its very best to contain enough brutal feelings to completely overwhelm me at any moment.

Miki continued to remain silent, however she did bow respectfully at me.  She quickly took the hand of her child and opened the door to the unused room that should have been a nursery for our own future child at one point.  Both she and the girl entered the room, and the door closed behind them.  She too had been assigned a prison cell.

Ever since she left, five years ago, I had essentially stopped living.  That included keeping up with friendships I once treasured.  Right now, I didn’t have a single person I could still call a friend well enough to talk to about this sudden development in my life.  I was an only child, so there were no siblings to speak of, and there is no way I could talk to my parents.  I was all alone, and unsure of how to proceed.

The very fact that she came back here, and not to her parents or to the lover she had forsaken me for, must mean her situation is dire.  I have no idea of her finances, nor do I have the slightest idea how long she is intending to stay.  I don’t even have food in my refrigerator to offer her or the child.  There is only beer, iced tea, and some snacks.  I usually go out to eat, or order in on a delivery app if I’m watching something interesting on television.  In the past, it was Miki who was the one that did all of the cooking and cleaning around here.

I was simply a walking, breathing, living paycheck.  Or at least, at the end back then, that was how I felt.  That was how she left me feeling.  A thought that circulated through my mind as I tidied up the living room was simply:  Did she ever really love me at all?

It was a question I had wondered countless times before, but even now I don’t dare ask it out loud.  Perhaps her stay will be short, and she will keep herself to her room.  Yes, it might be for the best if we avoid seeing each other.  I hadn’t changed the locks on the door, and I was curious if she still had her copy of the key.  Either way, I wouldn’t have to see her much from tomorrow since work would occupy most of my time.  But a conversation between us was in order, at least, to figure out how a few things would go while she stayed here temporarily until she was able to move on once again.

Having tidied up the living room to my satisfaction, I sat back down where I was before the knocking on my door came, and I worked on finishing the remainder of my fourth can of beer.  It was perhaps an hour or more later when the door to the spare room had opened up again.  Both Miki and her young daughter came out, and they approached me, who was sitting on the couch, listless.  The young girl stepped forward a bit and bowed far more than she had any reason to.

“I’m Furumachi Momoko.  Thank you so much for letting my mommy and me stay with you, ojisan.”

Ah.  From the lips of a babe, I was called uncle by the little girl.  The same little girl using my family name as her own.  What in the world was Miki thinking when she thought to do that?

“I promise that I will do my best not to disturb you for as long as I’m allowed to stay.”  The little girl added.

Really, Miki.  Why are you making me out to be the villain barely an hour after you showed up back into my life?  Do you really think I’m the kind of person to throw a child her age out onto the street?  You, perhaps.  But even if she isn’t my child, she’s innocent, isn’t she?  Isn’t that why you coerced her into the dogeza that only you should have performed?  No child her age would do that without being coached to do so.  You really are human trash.

“That’s fine, but don’t call me ojisan.  You can either call me Tsubasa, or make up something else that’s easy enough for you to say.  And Miki, there isn’t anything but beer and snacks in the fridge.  So if you plan on making something for you and your daughter to eat, you’ll need to go shopping.  Everything in the kitchen should still be exactly where it was left.”

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a few bills.  It would be more than enough for groceries for the next few days.  I also pulled out my house key, curious as to the answer to the question I had before, if she still had the key to this place.

“You can also make a copy for yourself.  It’ll be inconvenient for me if you get locked out and I have to interrupt my work to call for maintenance to open the door.”

Miki’s face was tight.  She always had such a beautiful face.  She looked older now, though.  She should be the same age as me, but she looked about two years older than I did.  The last time I saw her face, she hadn’t yet turned thirty.  I suppose half a decade can change a person that much.

“There should be more than enough money there, so if you want to buy her some candy or an ice cream to eat, it’s fine.  I’m sure suddenly ending up here is stressful for everyone.”

I scratched my neck for a moment, feeling a little uncomfortable.

“That is, if it’s okay with you.  I don’t know how strict you are with what you give her.”

Miki had her lips pursed tightly the entire time.

I handed over the money and the house key to her, and after a long moment of hesitation, she received it with both hands.

“...then I’ll let her pick out something she likes.  What do you say, Momoko?”

“Thank you very much!”


Miki had taken her daughter’s hand and began walking to the door, helping her daughter put on her shoes.   She shot a question my way before leaving together with her.

“Tsubasa… do you still like spaghetti?”

“It’s been a while since I last ate it, but I still like it.”

It ended with the door closing and both mother and daughter going out to the nearby supermarket.  When I felt they were gone sufficiently long enough that they wouldn’t be suddenly opening the door, I put my face in my hands and did my best not to weep.

This meeting again after so long was simply too much for me.  I’m just a human being, after all, not a saint.