My first night at the Mansion shattered the peaceful, non-toxic and idle routine I kept so far and left me with consequences. My sleep during the day time was even worse than the usual bad sleep at night. I had dark circles under my eyes and a sour taste in my mouth. My stomach barely recovered after vomiting three times. It took me considerable strength and focus to stand still during Sato’s inspection.
“Let’s see,” Emile was going through the reservation list. “There’s a group reservation, not students, but older, corporate employees, then we have two ladies, hmm, perhaps this could be for you?”
“I’m a bit tired from yesterday. Can I start with one guest tonight?”
Emile grinned. “A bit tired? That’s an understatement. You know it probably means less money?”
“I don’t care.”
"Bien, I’ll take these two, leave the group to Kim and you can take--”
Sato came up to Emile and said something in a sharp and commanding tone. Emile bowed and answered with ‘Hai, Sato san’ but as soon as Sato was far enough, he rolled his eyes and did a mocking imitation of Sato’s words.
“God, I can’t stand the prick. Anyway, he told me to assign you to table number 10. Ah, of course,” remarked Emile as he passed his finger over the names on the reservation list.
“What? What is it?”
“You’ll serve Mrs Yamamoto tonight. A very nice lady, actually. She’s a regular and always asks for a non-Asian. She prefers blond ones. Stefan, the German who worked here before you, was one of her favorites. She must be into all that Aryan race and stuff. I bet she’ll love those blue eyes of yours. So, here you go, table 10, near the window. Good luck!” He turned me in the direction of the table and gave me a slight push on the back. A satisfying grin on his face got me worried.
Mrs Yamamoto was a mature, very-well kept woman. She looked in her early 40′s, but I was aware my estimation could have been easily wrong. It was hard to tell with Asian people, particularly with women.
Her black hair was tied up in a bun, she had a long neck, prominent cheeks and wore subtle make-up on her eyes and lips. Dressed in a black skirt suit, which fitted her slim figure very well, she looked sharp and corporate. Her strict, business image softened as she greeted me with a warm smile.
“My lady,” I said, placing a welcome aperitif on her table.
“No need for ‘my lady’,” she replied softly and smiled. “Yamamoto san will do just fine. Could you bring this bottle of champagne?” The bottle she pointed to on the menu was one of the most expensive ones.
“Certainly, my... umm, Yamamoto san.”
“And please, bring a glass for you as well.”
Shit. I didn’t want to get down that road again.
Once seated, she poured me a glass, and then passed me the bottle to fill up hers.
“I’ve never seen you before. You must be new?” Her English was flawless, not a trace of Japanese accent in it.
“Yes, my second day, actually.”
“Oh, so brand new. And how do you like it here? I mean, in Tokyo.”
“It’s...interesting. Are you from Tokyo as well?”
“Oh, no. I’m from Osaka. I come to Tokyo now and then, for business. What is your name?”
“David san, what would you like to eat?” She opened the menu and passed it to me.
“I..I think you should choose-”
“Oh, please go ahead. Order what you like.”
I looked at the menu and glanced at her a few times. She was waiting patiently, a slight smile never left her lips.
“Ok, I’d like to have a steak then.”
“A steak? Great.”
She chose a chicken, a soup, a variety of salads and some other small dishes for both of us to taste. After I brought the food to the table, we ate most of the time in silence, commenting now and then on how delicious everything was. The way she held her chopsticks or a fork, the way she smiled and talked, her whole image and posture, it was all very elegant.
“You should try this.” She offered me the soup. “It’s made of very special mushrooms, very rare and hard to come by. That’s why they call it the Emperor’s soup.”
“I thought it was because of its outrageous price.” A silly attempt to be humorous. She smiled, but it was more out of politeness. In all truth, the taste was quite mellow and I couldn’t appreciate it as much as she did, but the warmth of it felt good in my stomach. I took two sips and gave it back to her. “Thank you, it’s nice.”
She acknowledged my words with a small nod. “So, David san, what brings you to Japan?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. She approached me in such a sincere way I felt stupid to make up a lie. I already regretted I told her a fake name.
“It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me.”
“What brings you to the Mansion?”
She looked up and pressed her lips together in a thoughtful expression. “Well, the food is excellent. And I don’t like to eat alone.”
“Do you come here often?
“Depends.” She didn’t elaborate further.
“Your English is very good.”
“Thank you. I did my master’s degree in the UK. Where are you from?”
“The Netherlands.” I didn’t want to lie anymore about something so trivial.
“Oh, I’ve been to Amsterdam. Are you from Amsterdam?”
“Lovely city. And lovely people too.”
I shrugged and picked up the glass.
She did the same and said: “Well, let’s make a toast to...interesting chance encounters!”
“To interesting chance encounters,” I repeated and clinked my glass against hers.
I liked her smile and the sound of her voice. She was the first normal person that I had talked to in a long time.
“Are you a student?”
“No, well, I was, I didn’t finish the studies.”
“What did you study?”
I already finished my steak, so she offered me a taste of her marinated pieces of chicken, which melted in my mouth.
“Social studies and psychology.”
“Not really.” I spoke with my mouth full. “Lots of useless theory.”
“Hmm, you think theory is useless?”
“When it exists only for its own sake, yes.”
This semi-intellectual conversation continued and as hours past I realized Mrs Yamamoto was probably the best guest I could have wished for. She was a good listener and an intelligent conversationalist. I soon found myself wanting to tell her all about my true reasons why I came to Japan. Not wanting to spoil the pleasant conversation with my turbulent history, I held back.
We had desserts and drank more champagne, both getting pleasantly tipsy. She looked lovely in the candlelight.
“So, you’re married?” I pointed to a golden wedding band on her left hand, which I noticed a while ago.
“Yes, married, with two kids, both grown up. What about you?”
“I’m not married.”
“A girlfriend, fiancée?”
I shook my head. “Nope.”
She tried to hide a smile that crept on her lips behind a napkin. We were momentarily lost for words. I smiled and she glanced at her wristwatch.
“The Mansion is closing soon. Would you care, David san, to accompany me to my hotel? It’s only a 15-minute walk from here.”
“Ehm,” I hesitated; “I need to finish up here first, not sure how long it will take.”
She stood up from the table and placed her hand on my shoulder. “I’ll wait for you outside.”
I watched her as she continued towards the exit and as soon as she left I went looking for Emile.
“Outside the Mansion, what you do, is your own thing,” said Emile when I told him about the request of Mrs Yamamoto. With a thick envelope in my hand, we parted at the entrance and I headed towards Mrs Yamamoto, who was waiting further down the street.
We reached the hotel and I was about to say goodbye when she spoke first: “David san, would you like to come in for a tea?”
I could not say no to her seductive gaze. Besides, I was very horny.
“I’d love to,” I replied and we entered the hotel.