Despite the exorbitant prices, the posh French restaurant was filled to capacity. It was a place quite popular with persons of means who not only wanted to celebrate special occasions, but wanted to show others that they could afford to do so.
Kumiko and her boyfriend Hideki played the part of well-to-do young couple well. But she was a mere flower shop employee and he had only recently started working entry level at an investment firm. So the occasion they were celebrating was of far greater significance than the other patrons, whose celebrations could be as insignificant as what day of the week it was.
"This place is so expensive," said Hideki. "I hope I ordered the right thing. I've never had French food before."
"You worry too much," replied Kumiko.
"I don't know if I'll be able to eat anything. My stomach feels like it's been tied up in knots."
"Are you really that worried about how much the meal is going to cost?" asked a chuckling Kumiko. "We don't have a lot of money now, but you're going to be president of the company some day. So why not live a little?"
"It's not just the money that I'm worried about," replied Hideki.
Kumiko stopped chuckling. There was still a smile on her face, albeit a halfhearted one. The worry on Kumiko's face was quickly replaced, though, with a genuine smile. "We're celebrating," she said. "We shouldn't be worrying."
"You're right," said Hideki.
A waiter arrived at the couple's table and filled Hideki's glass with wine. When he offered to fill Kumiko's glass, she gave him a polite smile and waved him away.
"We still have to tell your father," said Hideki.
"My father . . . he'll be happy," said Kumiko. "I'm sure of it. I'm his only child. That makes me special."
"He's not just your father," said Hideki. "He's also my boss. He's been looking over my shoulder at everything I do at work. I feel like he's looking for a reason to get rid of me."
"He wouldn't do that," said Kumiko.
"I don't think he likes me very much. When we told him we were moving in together, I honestly thought he was going to attack me. I've never been so afraid in my life."
The couple's meals arrived shortly thereafter and the two ate their food without saying much more to one another.
A few days later, Kumiko and Hideki mustered up the courage to visit the Sashihara family home. It wasn't a place Kumiko visited much after leaving to start a life of her own. But it was a place filled with many fond memories despite how strict her father had been. Kumiko was appreciative of her pampered upbringing. She had never gone without, and to the present day, was still being taken care of in one form or another by her father.
Not quite knowing how to break the news to her parents, Kumiko bluntly told them as the family enjoyed snacks at the dining room table. The response the news received was not the one Kumiko had been hoping to receive.
"After all that I've done for you," said Mr. Sashihara, burning his glare into Kumiko. "This is how you repay me?" He then startled everyone badly by slamming his fists into the table. "You're not even married!"
"Dear, please calm down," said Kumiko's mother.
"How could you do this?" asked Mr. Sashihara. "What are people going to think of this family, of me? I've had people tell me they wanted me to run for mayor. Do you think I can do that now? I won't even be able to show my face in public."
"This is happy news," said Kumiko, her voice little more than a whisper.
"How can you afford to raise a child?" asked Mr. Sashihara. "You sell flowers for a living. I have to pay the rent on that place you're living in." He then turned his glare to Hideki. "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't even have a job! Do you think anyone else would hire you? I only hired you to make my daughter happy. What would you two do without me? Do you want to find out? I knew it was a mistake to let you two start living together. You're just children playing house. You don't know even what it's like to be real adults. You two need to grow up!"
Mr. Sashihara suddenly stopped his verbal rampage to catch his breath. His wife dutifully unscrewed a bottle of pills and handed a couple to her husband. Mr. Sashihara swiftly swallowed the pills with his water and abruptly took his leave.
"Your father didn't mean what he said," said Kumiko's mother. "You know how much stress he's under with work and his health hasn't been very good recently."
"I thought he would be happy," said Kumiko. "I know how badly he wanted to have a grandchild."
"But not like this," replied Kumiko's mother. "Try to understand where your father is coming from. He and I are from a different generation than you and Hideki. We waited until we were much older before we started thinking about starting a family. And we had to get married before that thought ever crossed our minds. I was almost thirty before I even went on my first date with a man. You kids these days, you move so fast. You never take the time to think about the consequences of your actions."
"We've talked about this a lot," said Hideki. "Me and Kumiko are ready for this. You know we're getting married in the spring. We can move the wedding up so the baby won't be born yet. No one has to know about this. We can keep it a secret."
Kumiko's mother sighed.
Mr. Sashihara returned. "Could you give me and these two some privacy?" he asked his wife. "There's something I want to talk to them about." Kumiko's wife did as her husband requested and allowed the three to speak in private.
The look on Mr. Sashihara's face showed Kumiko and Hideki that his mood hadn't improved since he had left the room. He seemed to be just as angry if not angrier than before.
"Father," said Kumiko before being interrupted.
"Don't say a word," said Mr. Sashihara. "You two are going to sit there and you're going to listen very carefully to every word that comes out of my mouth."