“Come in,” He said, “and shut the door behind you.”
I shut the door and took a seat in front of the large mahogany desk, slowly folding and unfolding my hands on my lap.
“You do know why I called you here, right?” He queried.
“To tell me what a great guy I am?”
“More like to can your butt. Do you have any idea how hard I had to fight not to get a law suit brought against you? At least show some remorse.”
I looked across the desk into his eyes.
“I warned you that he was irritating me. I told you several times that you needed to do something about him. Besides, he taunted me first.”
Akira looked me over. I could tell he was not too pleased with the situation.
“Just because he spoke ill of your dead wife, does not mean you need to break his nose. I know you are a man, and that he was out of bounds to say the least, but you needed to show some self restraint. He was looked at with fellow feeling. Not to say he did not deserve it, mind you.” He stated with a wink.
I am in a little over my head. I straightened up in my chair.
“So, if I get laid off, what happens to him?”
“Obviously, Nothing. It’s going to be hard for him to have a social life here at the office after this. Not to say you aren’t in the same boat.”
Yeah, I kind of felt like that was the case.
“Do I still get the severance pay?”
“Of course. Your contract is ironclad. Management is chewing on their handkerchiefs with that one. Buying you out is going to set the company back over 25 million yen. They were talking about getting a loan, but who knows who will give it to them all things considered. Good thing you were one of the founding members.”
Ah, this is going to work out OK after all.
“Well then, since you gave me the boot, I guess I will go clean my desk off.”
“Security will see you out, Oh and Wataru? Meet me at Hime’s place tonight at 7.”
“Hime’s place? You buying?”
“Hime said she’s buying. As a parting gift. Shut the door on your way out.”
I left the office and headed to my desk. Well, my ex desk. There was already a box placed on top for me to put my things in. How thoughtful. I tried to ignore all of the disgusted looks as I managed to pack my things. Not that there were a lot of things to pack. Just some pictures and a few other items on top. I also pulled out a USB flash drive from my computer. Security arrived a few seconds later. The nice burly man grunted at me and looked over the box. Having been satisfied with the contents, he jerked his chin towards the exit. I took the box and headed to the door, looking back one more time at the place I called a second home for over 10 years.
At 10 minutes till 7, I arrived at Hime’s place. It was your typical Japanese Bar, with red curtains out front guarding the entrance. I pushed aside the curtain to enter the bar, which was rowdy with all kinds of people milling about. A waitress called out to me.
“Wataru, go to the back room. Hime told me she would be waiting for you back there.”
I nodded and walked through the busy place and headed toward a back room. The sliding door was closed, and I could see that there were lights on through the paper door screen. I gently slid the door open and walked into the room. A beautiful young woman, looking to be in her early 30′s, was seated on the floor. After a somewhat quiet ‘excuse me’ exited my mouth, I took a seat opposite her on the floor as well.
“How you been, Hime?”
The woman smiled and gently opened her eyes.
“I have been well. Better that you have been, obviously. Honestly, what would Aoi-chan have said about this whole mess?”
I looked down at the ring on my left hand. “I don’t know, but I am sure she would have been pretty angry at the guy who started this. I am sure she would have done more than break his nose. At least that’s what I think.”
“Aoi-chan was my best friend and your wife, Wataru. I knew her better than most, and I am absolutely positive she would have killed the man if she would have had the opportunity. Well, I am sure she’s laughing at this whole situation now from the afterlife. She always did like a good comedy.”
“A comedy? Yeah, no doubt about it, this really feels like a comedy. Ah, now you’ve done it.”
A tear slowly trailed down my cheek.
I scratched my cheek.
“Well, certainly not terrible ones. She constantly told Sakura-chan to play nice with the other children. I wonder if I would have gotten a scolding on top of the praise? I always hated her scoldings. She made me sit on my knees and would lecture me for hours. You know what that did to my poor body?”
“I am sure that she made up for it later on. At least that’s what she told me, anyway.”
The door to the room slid open. Akira entered and took off his dress coat before sitting down next to Hime.
“Alright Hime, now that I am here, let’s get this party started. Could you have the girls bring back a couple of beers? Sake too.”
Hime rose from her seat. With a nod and a ‘take your time tonight,’ she exited the room. Seconds later, a waitress arrived with two beers and a bottle of sake and two sake bowls on a platter. After gently placing the items down, she excused herself without a word.
“Wataru, good job putting up with that. Now that I am off the clock, I can finally say that.”
I smiled and glanced his way. He was in his 30′s. A tall, lanky man with black hair and brown almond shaped eyes. Those eyes were smiling at me.
“Thanks, Akira. The last 10 years have been a pretty good haul. I can’t say it was all fun and games, but it was very fulfilling. I won’t miss all of it, but I will certainly miss our lunches.”
Three times a week, no matter how busy either of us were, we took an hour lunch right here at this very table. No pressures, no conflicts, simply two friends enjoying each other’s company. Good times.
I took a long swig of my beer and leaned back on my hands, looking at the ceiling. After a few minutes of silence, Akira spoke.
“So, what will you do? Retire?”
I looked down from the ceiling. Gently pushing the red locks out from my eyes, I slowly began to form words.
“No. After I pay for all of the bills related to the funerals and paying off my car, I won’t have but half of it left. I figured that I would take some time off to wander, but I will have to go back to work eventually. But where? I have no clue. Now that I have been sacked, I can’t say that too many companies will want to hire me, even though I am talented.”
“Actually,” he said, “I think I might be able to help you out.”
He pushed a business card my way. It read ‘Nara Studios’. Hmm.....
“I think I have heard about these guys. They do that ‘Super Soap’ commercial right?”
“Correct. Right now, they are the hottest commercial producing studio in Japan. And guess what? They are looking for a new head animator.”
“That’s all well and good, but aren’t they in Nara?”
Akira smirked. “They are. It would mean relocation for you. But,”
Here he looked down on the table at the sake. He slowly reached out for it and poured me a glass.
“I remember that you told me not too long ago that you wanted a change of scenery. That it was too painful to live here. And, since you had your work, you couldn’t leave. But now, things have changed. I am sure that Aoi-chan and Sakura-chan are using this experience to tell you to go spread your wings.”