“You were certainly not kidding when you said you were hungry.” Rachael said later that night, the two still had energy and didn’t wish to return to the hotel just yet. “I still can’t believe you had three bowls. Where in the world does it even all go?”
Taryn paused in her drink to look at her friend. “My stomach?”
“You sure? Seems to me that you have a blackhole in there.”
She laughed. “I’m sure, I just felt hungry that’s all.”
Rachael was quiet for a moment. “If you say so.” Her grey eyes then looked around. “So, where do you want to go? We can take a look at a few shops that are still open, or do you want to head back to the hotel?”
Taryn got up from the bench that they were occupying and tossed the now empty can into it’s popper recycling bin. Since such bins have begun to make a return with the rise of foreigners in tourism. “We should probably head back to the hotel; I’m sure Stephanie will want to plan some stuff out for the week before we leave to the other location she mentioned.”
“What do you make of her?” Rachael asked.
“Of Stephanie? She seems nice. A bit pushy but nice all around, why?”
“Well,” Rachael began as she took another sip of her drink. “Because she’s the girlfriend of your ex-boyfriend. I never bothered asking then since you were going through a lot.”
I still am technically. Taryn thought before giving a shrug. “Either way what he did isn’t her fault, she didn’t know about what happened until after the fact.”
“But don’t you wonder why she is still dating him? I mean, he cheated on you. He could very well do it to her all the same.”
“I don’t think so.” Taryn said. “What Robert and I went through, is hard enough to imagine when it’s one side, but when you combine them both, a number of things become a bit… difficult. I needed time to myself, to figure everything out and he gave that to me. Then what happened with Paul, he asked me to do the same. So, I did.”
“It still doesn’t excuse his cheating.” Rachael stated firmly. “He isn’t willing to own up to what he did, and he acts like nothing happened. Like your relationship didn’t mean anything to him. Hell, you guys were close friends before all that happened. Why would he do those things, after all that you’ve been through in your life?”
Taryn merely sighed. “He doesn’t know everything Rachael. He doesn’t know what you do. Nor do I ever intend to tell him. Knowing him when we were in high school, he’d probably just laugh it off like a joke. I don’t ever want to subjugate myself to that. And I’d rather not lash out at him like I’ve already done.”
Rachael folded her arms across her chest. “I still think he’s an ass.”
“And you’re welcome to it, but I don’t want to be like that. Yet I keep contradicting myself when I see him. I just get so… angry. I don’t know if it’s because he is acting like none of it happened, or simply because of how we ended things and I didn’t let my emotions take over back then, I just… don’t know what to do.”
Rachael looked at her for a solid moment before asking. “Have you told anyone else this besides me?”
Taryn shook her head. She hadn’t, merely because she knew that her whole family had the trial to deal with along with the media and their jobs. Mixed with stress and loss, they had enough on their plate that she didn’t need to add more to it.
“Then, maybe you should? I’m no expert in this obviously, I have no idea what it is you’re going through, and I can only imagine what any of that might be like. But if you do, you might feel better.”
“Maybe,” she shook her head ending the topic. “Come on, we should head back.” Then she began to walk back towards the hotel.
Rachael merely watched her friend, she knew that Taryn probably wanted to say more, but even she knew that there were things Taryn couldn’t easily open up about, it was just in her nature to keep it to herself. Rachael only hoped that after everything that Taryn had been through in the past few months it wouldn’t cause her to disappear.
* * *
It was late in the evening, and another difficult night of sleep caused Taryn to wake once more. This time though, she stayed in the room and took out her phone as she plugged in her headphones so as not to wake Rachael.
Her father had told her about really the only thing she wanted to know, scrolling through she passed article after article of what she already knew. Of the events and of the aftermath. In her constant scroll however, she came to a stop when she recognised something.
It was of a short clip from the trial. She frowned; this didn’t look like it was coverage from the news outlets. Wondering what it was she pressed play. And almost immediately regretted it when she did.
When the video concluded she pinched the bridge of her nose with her finger and thumb of her left hand. How the hell did this get out? She looked back to the video and found it was connected to an article. One about her, just from looking at it she knew what it was instantly.
Damn snuff piece. She thought before glancing to her friend who was still asleep. Then as quietly as she could go, Taryn placed on her sandals and a long sleeved dark blue shrug over her shoulders. Currently she was wearing dark grey sweatpants and a black tank top as pajamas, but with at least the shrug, she could look a little more modest in the hall as she took her key card and left the room. It was the middle of the night so there was practically no one about thankfully, meaning she could at least make a call.
Finding a quiet corner Taryn moved to it, there was a window looking out to the bustling night life of Tokyo as she took at seat on a bench in front of the window. Then looked to her phone only to find herself hesitating, should she even bother? For all she knew her family could have already known about it. Her parents always told her not to let articles like that bother her, and technically it hadn’t since she was so used to it. But it was the fact that the video clip in question came from the court room, and from the angel of it, looked to be from the jury stands. If that were true, then there was an issue.
In the end she pressed call, if it had already been dealt with, then it was dealt with, and if not then it would be. She could hear the ring a few times before it was picked up. However, it was not who she expected to answer.
“Hello Taryn,” a man’s soft voice answered on the other line. “If you’re hoping to talk to your mother, she’s out right now. How are things in Japan?”
“Hello to you too Isaac,” she said not sounding at all surprised that he answered. “Do you know when she’ll be back?”
Isaac Faust was a close family friend. Taryn had practically known him all of her life, someone whom she could trust wholeheartedly. And was now working under her mother in law, doing what he could to be an accomplished lawyer while also not letting it get to his head. Which is why he was probably one of the humblest in the profession.
“Not for a while sadly, an issue came up and had to be taken care of.”
So she already knows? “Does it involve the jury?”
“The jury?” Isaac said, his voice clearly sounding concerned. “No, why do you think it involves with the jury?”
She told him that she had found a video, even sending a link to his phone, when she finished, she then asked. “Will the rest of the trial be put on hold because of this?”
“No, there are backup jurors, but it will be delayed regarding in finding who the leak is coming through. I know that your family has dealt with this shady tabloid before. With everything going on we should have been keeping a better eye on it. And on the jurors.”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself Isaac.” Her voice was soft as she leaned on her knees. “You both were just as close.” there was silence on his end. “I’m sorry, I’ve probably made things worse by doing this when you already have your work.”
“Nonsense.” Isaac said suddenly. “If anything, I’m glad you called, even though it was just to give this information. It’s good to hear from you.”
“Same to you.” Taryn said, a faint smile reaching her lips. “I should probably let you go; you have a lot to do now with this information.”
“Even if that weren’t the case, you’re always more than welcome to call. And not just your folks or the others you know. After all, you have my number.”
She laughed a bit. “I did just send you that information,” her smile faltered slightly. “I know you and Mom aren’t allowed to work on the case, because of your connection.”
“Yes,” Isaac said softly. “But even though we cannot be completely involved and prosecute the one behind it, we can still assist with the one working for the Crown.”
“I just hope it goes well.”
“We won’t really know till the end. So, until then all we can do is keep giving the facts of the matter. Though, we do believe it will end soon.” He then changed the topic. “It’s late over there, you should try and get some rest. I know you’ve been having difficulty sleeping. Your Mother told me, but you still need to try okay?”
“Yeah,” Taryn said after taking in a deep breath. “I won’t do any more searches either, I know that after this you guys will be all over it.”
“We’re good at that,” he said.
“I know, how are Isabella and Bob?” she asked.
“They aren’t planning to sneak to Japan to keep an eye on you if that’s what you’re wondering. They know as well as anyone else how much you need this.”
Taryn remained silent, Isabella and Bob were her two trusted bodyguards since she was young and had seen them like an aunt and uncle, well, as much as she could given their jobs. And how they came to be involved with her family thanks to that of her Uncle.
Even they took blame in what happened, but even they couldn’t have predicted it, and because of it had become even more determined in protecting the family, but ultimately fell into agreement in wishing Taryn to go.
“Try to sleep well Taryn.” Isaac said softly.
“I will,” and she meant it.
He hesitated for a moment. “Taryn, if you find that you need to talk, regardless of what it is, you know you can call me at any time. Day or night.” And she knew that he meant it too. Since she had done it before when she was younger.
“I know, bye for now Isaac.” When she hung up, she rested her head in her hands. She felt tried, but sleep was still a struggle.
“Taryn?” a familiar voice caused her to turn around to see Stephanie. Dressed in a dark purple silk tank top, and black pajama bottoms with blonde hair left down around her shoulders the woman looked at her with some concern. “I heard your voice, so I came over.”
Since Taryn and Rachael had moved to a different room, they were now all situated on the same floor, something Stephanie hoped to avoid but knew it would be impossible.
“Do you need something?” Taryn asked partly wondering why she was up so late as well.
“No, not really.” She hesitated, suddenly looking a lot nervous. “Actually, I was going to head down to the bar. Robert is completely out cold. Do you maybe want to join me?”
Taryn looked at her for a solid moment, she could see there was no ill intent behind her asking. “Sure,” she said. “I don’t mind.”
Stephanie led her down to the bar, it was still open but currently with how late it was the place was empty. In fact, there was only the bartender and two Japanese men talking amongst themselves from the other side. And the bartender seemed more than okay with how they were dressed as the two sat down at the bar as Stephanie ordered a drink.
Taryn was a year below the legal age to drink in Japan, it was a bit funny to her since she had just turned legal to drink in her own country, but she really had no real interest in alcohol. Even when several kids in her high school did it behind their parents’ backs, she felt no need. Not because her father was chief of police and her mother a well-known lawyer working for the Crown, she just simply found it to be impractical.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?”
Taryn merely gave a shrug. “Go ahead.”
“I want you to be honest,” Stephanie said. “Do you hate me?”
Taryn frowned trying to understand why she would ask that. “Why would I hate you?”
“Because of what happened with Robert,” she says as she picks up a glass of scotch that the bartender gave her after checking her ID.
“I was angry at Robert, not at you. Besides, I honestly have no reason to hate you, it’s not like you stole him from me. I do have a question for you though.” she turned to look at her right in the eye, not averting her gaze. “Why are you still with him?”
Stephanie rested her elbows atop the bar before interlacing her fingers and rested her chin atop them. “It’s not really that complicated, I’m still with him because I care about him. I know it might not make any sense but it’s the truth. I know what he did to you was horrible, and as someone who had been cheated on many times in the past with pervious lovers, so I wanted to do something about it. That’s why I thought this trip would make it up to you. Actually, you didn’t seem all that surprised when I gave you the tickets.”
“Not the first time I’ve gone through something like it. Being taken on a sudden trip I mean.” Taryn said as she now looked down at the bar and drummed her fingers against it. “Mind if I ask how you guys even met?”
“Ah right, you wouldn’t know.” Stephanie leaned back in her stool, as her hands grasped the edges as she looked up to the ceiling. “We met at group therapy. For those who lost someone to suicide.” She glanced at Taryn and gave a small smile. “Does that surprise you?”
A moment of silence passed between the two women.
“No, I suppose it shouldn’t, with all things considered.” Taryn spoke breaking the silence. “Do you mind if I ask who it was that you lost?”
“It was my brother Tyler.” She took a sip and laughed as though what she had said was something that she found funny. “So, you see? I can relate to a certain degree.” She picked up her glass and continued to look at the golden liquid as she remained smiling. “He was two years older than me. Our Dad wanted him to take over the family business, and honestly everything seemed fine. He seemed fine. But I suppose, they always want you to believe that. That nothing is wrong with them, that they aren’t suffering from depression.”
“Do you know if he tried to get himself help?”
She finished off the rest of her drink and now stared at the empty glass. “Yeah, though the person he was seeing as a therapist, wasn’t who we all thought he was. The guy was just extorting my brother for money. Money that my father blamed my brother for losing. We were able to get it back of course, but I think that was his tipping point. Tyler… shut himself away after that, wouldn’t talk to me, or Dad, no one. And in the end, I found him in the bathtub of our house covered in blood his face looking so pale like a ghost. Even now I still can’t get it out of my head no matter how hard I try.”
Taryn looked at the woman who now bared her heart to her, there was a heavy tone of regret and loss in Stephanie’s voice. She really had cared a lot about her brother. “I know you said that you and I can relate to one another, but I haven’t a clue as to what it would be like in your situation as I’m sure you’d have no idea what it’d be like in mine. But I think my mother could understand you far better than me.”
Stephanie propped her arms atop the bar. “What makes you say that?”
“Because my Mom dealt with something similar when she was a lot younger, her younger brother Ryan, my uncle, killed himself right in front of her. By jumping out of the third-floor window of their house.”
Stephanie became deathly quiet as she looked at Taryn with wide eyes before muttering under her breath. “Jesus…” then asked. “But… wait a second. Why do you know that? Did you just ask her?”
Taryn slowly shook her head. “A few years ago, I dealt with quite a shock. It wasn’t anything like with what happened to my brother but, it still left a horrible impact. I thought I’d go crazy from it. My Mom told me it was natural to feel that way and gave me that story to prove her point. She said that even to this day she thinks about it, the “what if’s” what if I did this, what if I did that. What could I have done where this would not have happened. It helped to a degree, and not long after that I met Rachael, we became friends. Then my uncle Gerald, my Dad’s younger brother, took us on a trip and so on and so forth.”
The two fell back into silence once more, the bartender returning and refilling Stephanie’s glass, and even left a cold glass of coke for Taryn, then left the two alone once again before Taryn spoke up once more.
“So how did you meet? You said it was at this group gathering, but now I’m kind of curious as to how the whole thing went down.”
“Ah looking for the dirty stuff I see,” Stephanie laughed when Taryn gave her an arched stare in response. “Oh, relax I’m only kidding. It was me who kicked it all off. He hadn’t spoken a word, had been to three whole meetings and not a single thing said. I’m not sure if it’s because of what happened with my own brother, but I was worried about him. Afraid, that maybe he might do something to himself. Now that I know him better, I know he wouldn’t, but it was still in the back of my head. So, I approached him and eventually got him talking. It took a while. And over time, the more and more I got to know him, I thought, what the hell? Ask him out for coffee. Turns out, he doesn’t drink the stuff.”
Taryn laughed a bit. “Yeah he drinks tea.”
“I didn’t really care what he drank, besides, at a certain point I finally got him to open up. That’s all I really wanted. As we became closer, he told me a bit about your situation, how you lost your brother and he lost Paul almost right around the same time. But he never said a word that you guys were dating… if anything I got the assumption that you guys were friends.”
“We were once,” Taryn said as she took a sip of her own drink, noting how the coke seemed to taste a bit different than from what she was used to back at home. “Sometimes I think it would have been better if we just stayed as friends.”
“You could always be like that again you know?”
Taryn kept her mouth shut on the matter but found herself asking. “Do you love him? Do you really love Robert?”
The smile Stephanie gave was a warm and inviting one as she held the glass now in both of her hands. “Yeah, I do. As dumb as I’m sure many would look at me for it, I do really love the idiot. That’s why I want to make it up to you in any way possible.”
“You know you don’t have to go this far. But it’s like what I said to you before, I don’t hate you for what he did.”
“Then do you hate Robert?”
She hesitated, clasping her hands together atop of the bar. “I don’t know. When I see him, I just feel angry, but I have no idea if it’s from his cheating or… or something else that can’t remember. A lot of it just feels like a blur, what happened to Roy, finding out that Robert cheated on me, the damn trial… everything.” Even just thinking it gave her a headache.
“Was the trial that you were apart of that bad?”
“Pretty much.” Taryn said with a heavy breath.
“Do you mind if I ask what happened?”
Taryn clamped her lips tightly shut. In all honesty she wanted to just forget, but after seeing that video so much came back to the forefront of her mind. Including one thing that was said to her that she could never forget.
“You’re constantly surrounded by death, aren’t you, Miss Lowell?”