When I arrived at the office, I settled in at my desk, placing the bento I was given by Miki near my keyboard.
When I woke up and came out to the living room, Miki and Momoko were already awake. Miki had my cup of coffee ready and had a bento made for me. Momoko was sitting quietly on the couch with her plush unicorn watching some tokusatsu or sentai program, I wasn’t really focused enough to figure out which it was. I sat at the table enjoying my coffee slowly and browsing the news on my phone. It was a strange feeling having Miki doing what she always used to do in the kitchen, and suddenly the addition of a four year old girl sitting on a couch watching her morning shows. It’s like a dark humor that I had woken up one day and suddenly had a family again.
No complaints, no nagging, two people both greeting me cheerfully with a “good morning.”
Absolutely surreal to me, a man who for the last five years had been struggling with loneliness and depression. And as if it was perfectly normal, I finished my cup of coffee, took a shower, got dressed for work, and was sent off by Miki, who would later go out and find a nice pre-school for Momoko to attend. Of course I’d be paying for it so Miki could find a job and begin properly establishing her foundation in providing for Momoko, but I felt like I’d be as bad as she was if I just tossed them out. Momoko is unrelated to me, and Miki is attached to her as a mother, so it’s not like I can just take care of Momoko even if I wanted to raise someone unrelated to me. But then again, I don’t know the first thing about childcare, so it’s just as well. It probably won’t take more than a couple of months for her to become self-sufficient, and after this long I can probably find the right time to bring up our divorce. For all that I’m doing to help her, there’s no way she can’t pay me back with that. I don’t even care about a monetary replacement from Miki. I’ll consider the money I spend now as a service fee for a clean break afterwards.
About fifteen minutes into work, the section chief gathered our department and introduced a new worker to us.
“I’d like to introduce a new hire who will be working in our department. This is Kokona Chiaki.”
“Hello, I’m Kokona Chiaki. I’ve recently joined the company. I look forward to working with all of you. Please look after me from here on.”
She bowed politely, and it was an otherwise completely polite introduction. Everyone greeted her well, mostly happy to have another pair of hands in our department. However, the only one not feeling fantastic about her arrival was me, but not because of what Usui-san had said to me yesterday about a sexy woman who I would be mentoring.
No, that wasn’t the reason at all.
“Furumachi! Kokona-san’s guidance will be entrusted to you. Please make sure she understands how to do all of the work before her probationary period ends.”
“Yessir, section chief.”
The woman in question, Konona-san, had come over to my desk and introduced herself. Or she tried to anyway. There was no way either of us weren’t aware of each other.
“It is you, Tsucchi!”
Chocola. AKA Kokona Chiaki.
About a year and a half ago, when I was suffering through an extremely low point in my life, I had deigned to use one of those Delivery Health sites. I didn’t have it in me to look for and start an office romance. Besides, most of the ladies are either looking for a younger, more handsome man, or are already married, or worse, have no intention of ever marrying. And I don’t really have any interest in going out to mixers or whatever happens to be in style these days, in an effort to find a partner to help me get over Miki, since I had a large trauma in my ability to trust a woman.
At least, that applied to everyone but Chocola. Konoka-san.
The site I used had a number of girls, and I had chosen the one with the alias of Chocola because she… resembled Miki.
I know, I know. It was a huge moment of weakness for me. But my finger did the clicking and the next day I had a girl knocking at my door. She was friendly, and very conversational with me. I had paid for the full package, and that included the allowable intimacy. Chocola in no time at all had broken down a lot of the walls of misery I had put up. She spoiled me rotten, to be fully honest.
It became a weekly thing, sometimes twice weekly. I’d pay for the full package, but we never quite took it anywhere. She let me know she was willing, not even discreetly. But she was also fine not having to do that, either. It turns out that since she was up there in age, being thirty-one, she wasn’t in high demand. In fact, it was a part time job for her, since at her age she still lived with her parents.
“Just so you know, no one else is paying for the full package. Just you, Tsucchi.”
I have no idea if it was a lie or not, I didn’t even really care. She was a body. A warm soft body with a kind smile and someone that knew how to spoil that depressed me.
What went from time spent at home just watching television and eating takeout had become something else. Companionship, even if it was the paid kind. She suggested things for us to do, date spots and the like. Things I hadn’t even had a chance to do in high school we did. Karaoke, driving go-karts through Shibuya scramble square… everything fun to take my mind off of what was killing me inside.
She was also able to open me up and listen to me talk about Miki. I had even gone so far as to show her the photos and such that I had obtained from the detective I had hired to look into Miki’s strange behavior before she left me.
Chocola was sympathetic, and where a normal person would have told me to go get some therapy. She had a different idea.
“How about I pretend to be your wife?”
It was a ludicrous idea, but that’s exactly what happened… sort of. I was no longer booking our meetings from the internet. Instead, she would just come over when she wanted to. I was still giving her money, that part didn’t change. But she came over and cooked for me, gave me lap pillows while we watched movies on a streaming service, and we just talked about anything. The most important part was the touch she gave me. We still hadn’t gotten fully intimate with each other, but one night she stayed over, and I was able to hold her in my arms the entire night in my bed. I felt like a human being once more after that night.
Slowly we became closer, even going as far as bathing together without reservation.
But one night soon after that led to the both of us making a decision to finally go all the way. I was going to throw away my past with Miki and embrace Chocola. By now I knew her real name, so it became strange to call her Chocola anymore. Anyway, we tried to…
But I couldn’t.
I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t an issue of ED or anything, I had no problem getting erect for Chiaki. But the thing is, I just couldn’t commit. Maybe my unconscious mind knew something I didn’t, maybe I still had a hangup for Miki. I don’t know what the reason really was, but I couldn’t do it. And I wouldn’t let her take the reins and do it for me, either.
It wasn’t just that night that ended in failure. There were a few other times.
But my constant failure to just make her mine caused our relationship to start drifting away. I didn’t leave her hanging though. I spoke with her properly about it. How, for whatever reason, as much as I cared for her, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t bring myself to be with her sexually. I apologized profusely to her, apologized for wasting her time, and apologized for leading her on. I was serious about her, I think, but there was something preventing me from being able to be with her, and until I figured it out, I would only hurt her, and for all the good she had done for me, she didn’t deserve to be strung along by a guy like me who couldn’t commit. I expected her to be furious, but instead she had said she understood. After that, she sent me a single message when she got home, letting me know she would stop seeing me. But that, if we ever met each other again, I should take it as a sign from heaven to try again with her.
That was a year and a half ago.
And now, somehow, a year and a half later, she was standing right next to me… Right after my wife returned home from her campaign of infidelity, bringing with her a daughter she had conceived with another man…
“Why are you here, Kokona-san?”
“I applied for the job opening.”
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I was following the red string of fate.”
I gave her a wild-eyed look.
“Don’t look at me like that. You know that’s exactly the kind of person I am.”
I sighed. It was exactly the kind of person she was.
“Anyway, I waited, you know? I looked around wherever I went, but I never saw you. I mean, I still have the spare key you gave me, and you aren’t blocked or anything in my phone, but I said that dumb thing and I couldn't bring myself to go against the will of heaven.”
“How convenient that you happen to run into me now, of all times.”
“I know, right?”
I sighed again, and shook my head.
“What’s wrong, Tsucchi?”
“Miki… came back.”
“Eh? Your wife did? Are you back together with her?”
“No. She showed up at my apartment two days ago, with a kid, and both of them were doing a dogeza in front of my door, with Miki begging for me to take her in because she had nowhere else to go.”
“And you didn’t take the chance to slam the door in her face?”
“Tell me about it.”
“Then it really is heaven sent that I found you again after all this time!”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it, Tsucchi. For a while there, wasn’t I her replacement? It’s not like you weren’t happy with me, right? How about we start dating? Give her a taste of the hell she put you through five years ago!”
Rather than work, Chiaki spent the next two hours convincing me of the perfect revenge. Apparently, the best way to do it was to let Miki understand, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had moved on from her. To show her I had somebody, and that I was happy with her. That there was no room, no chance for Miki to try and edge her way back into my life.
Obviously, I had concerns. Most of them not even involving Miki, but Momoko-chan.
To Momoka, I was this kind ojisan who let her and her mother stay in my apartment, but even a four year old can misunderstand things. She might think that her mother and I are getting along, and that maybe something good might come of it. So should I suddenly bring Chiaki over… even though I told Miki not to ever bring a man over, I’d become something of a hypocrite.
“Tsucchi… I missed you. After you, I didn’t even go back to doing that kind of stuff. I got my shit together and even managed to get a job at a respectable company. By chance we’ve been reunited, don’t you also think that now, more than ever, even heaven is giving you the chance to get even? Or after everything she did to you, are you going to roll over and take her back like nothing ever happened?”
When she said that, some kind of switch in my brain flipped on. I was taken back to this morning, when I was drinking my cup of coffee. Miki was in the kitchen, Momoka was on the couch watching television, and for a moment it felt like I was a family man again. That surreal feeling that I couldn’t figure out…
“Let’s do it, Tsucchi. You couldn’t do it before because you were waiting for her, weren’t you? But now she’s back and she had a child with another man. There’s nothing left of your marriage to save, so why not try with me again? What we had was real, right? For me, there hasn’t been anyone else since you. My feelings for you were serious. I know yours were too, you just didn’t have a way to reconcile with them. Now you do.”
“I’m serious about you, Tsucchi. I still love you, after all this time.”
It was troublesome to deal with Chiaki coming on so strong from the very beginning. However I managed to corral her after a while and actually began teaching her the ropes of the job she was expected to do here. Of course, by the time things were moving along nicely, it became lunchtime.
I had the bento Miki made for me.
That only opened me up to more harassment from Chiaki until I was finally able to call it a day and leave work.