“Hey, wake up!” I felt a strong nudge on my shoulder.
I opened my eye but all I could see was a vague outline of a person standing next to the sofa. Rubbing my eye, I slowly sat up. My vision adjusted and the vague form became a woman in a sparkling yellow gown.
Once she saw I was awake, she sat on the chair by the desk and began to brush her long, black hair to the side, puckering her lips at the mirror.
“You must be Ela,” I said, passing my fingers over my head and down my neck. I felt just as bad, if not worse, as earlier on the terrace.
She sprayed a bottle of some hair product over her head, its heavy perfume reaching my nostrils and causing me to grimace. Seemingly satisfied with the way she looked, she turned and batted her very long eyelashes at me. “And you…must get out of here.”
Twins, I thought. The resemblance between her and Ernest was uncanny.
“Oh, sweetie, he didn’t tell you, did he?” Her tone of voice was much more melodic and confident than Ernest’s. Even her dialect differed somehow.
“Tell me what?”
Her eyes were now exploring my face, her expression changing from pity to disgust. “You should see a doctor.”
“What did Ernest not tell me?” I insisted.
“Who exactly do you think I am?
“Umm, Ernest’s sister, I presume. You two look alike.”
“Coz we are alike.” She puffed the air from her lips and crossed her hands in her lap. “He always lets me do this.”
My confused stare must have conveyed I had no idea what was she talking about.
“The best way to put it is that Ernest and I share the same body. When I’m here, he cannot be. Got that, sweetie?”
My first guess was correct then. ‘Technically, that was Ela’, Ernest’s words replayed in my mind. Technically was the keyword in that oblique sentence, which led me to assume there was a different person in play. As my brains worked it out, I started chuckling and eventually burst into uncontrollable laugher.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, didn’t mean to…” I began to apologize, seeing Ela scowling at me. “It’s just that…this situation continues to get more and more bizarre. I came to this elite club to meet a man, who could potentially make or break my life, and ended up beaten badly on the orders of some crazy woman who didn’t take the rejection well, left for dead on the roof of the 40th floor of a fuckin department store, and then assisted by an American transvestite, whose name is Ernest. I simply…” Shaking my head, I opened my arms, palms up, unable to finish the sentence.
“Hey, hey!” Ela countered. “Let me make a few things clear. First, I’m not American, my father is; a US soldier who fell in love with a local beauty while serving at the U.S. military base in Okinawa. I’m Japanese, born and raised here, even though I do admit, it’s hard to tell from the first look as dad’s genes were pretty strong. Second, I’m no transvestite. I hate it when people try to stick a label at me just to appease their discomfort. Ernest and I are two different people who happen to share the same body -- and before you go there,” she pushed her finger at my face as if to stop me from saying something; “don’t call it a multiple personality disorder either, coz I sure as hell don’t see it as a disorder, but rather as an advantage.”
She paused to inhale some air, her face softening a little. “I might agree Ernest is an awkward name. But that’s his problem.”
“Yes.” She turned toward the mirror and proceeded to apply lipstick. “Anyway, you need to get out of here. Ernest was kind enough to let you rest here for this long. The club opens in an hour and considering what happened to you last night, I don’t think you’re welcome here anymore.”
“No…” I half stood up, but briskly sat back down again, pressing my hand on the abdomen. The pain was still there. “I need to stay here until the club fills up. Ernest said I could stay.” I knew once I left the club I would not be allowed back in again.
“No, he didn’t,” she replied sharply, standing up from her seat. “Why would you want to stay anyway? Wasn’t last night’s beating enough for you?”
“I want to talk to Ernest.”
She chuckled. “You saw that in a movie or something? It’s not how this works. Besides, I have a bit more control over Ernest than he does over me.”
I pointed my finger at the photo on the mirror frame. “You know that guy?”
A nervous smile appeared on her face as she looked at the photo. “Who…who do you mean? He’s just a guy from the club,” she said, her voice faltering.
“Is he a fighter for Yamato Damashi?”
“Why do you wanna know?”
“He was one of the guys that beat me last night.
“Just leave him alone.”
“But why, why would he and the others beat me up?”
“What did you expect? This club belongs to Yamato Damashi. They are not very kind to outsiders, even less to foreigners.”
“So he is one of the fighters for Yamato Damashi?”
She paused, pursing her lips in annoyance. “Yes, and that’s all I’m gonna tell you.”
“I want to talk to him and I need you to help me with that.”
“No!” she refused in a severe and decisive tone.
I took a deep breath, leaning backward on the sofa to appease the pain in my abdomen.
“There was also a woman,” I continued with a calmer voice. “She had black hair… and one of those haircuts, straight like this –“ With my fingers, I draw a shape around my face. “Green eyes, dressed in black… She was part of the group that beat me, maybe even in charge … Do you know her?”
“I’ve seen her around. She comes often to the club.”
“Who is she?”
Ela shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Ernest said something about clans?”
“You should ask Ernest then.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” I snarled. “With all the problems I have--”
“Oh,” she titled her head in a mocking sympathy.” Coz’ you’re the only one with the problems, sweetie.”
I shifted my one-eyed stare back at the mirror frame. “Does the guy from the photo know Ernest?”
Her mouth thinned. “Is that how you wanna play it?”
“I’m not playing.”
She sat back down with a resigned sigh, crossing her arms in front. “I have nothing to hide but I don’t want some gaijin stirring things up unnecessarily.”
“Then help me.”
“I don’t know much more from what I already told you. I never liked fighting.”
“Do you know a certain Kansuke Fujiwara?”
She shook her head.
“I need you to let me stay in your room for another hour and not tell anyone I’m here. Once the club fills up, I’ll be gone. Please.”
She glanced at the small clock on the desk then back at me. “And you won’t talk to James, the guy on the photo?”
“Fine.” She took one last look at the mirror, then stood up from her chair and walked toward the door. “When I get back, I don’t want to see you here. Don’t take or touch anything. And by the way,” she nonchalantly pointed her finger at me; “You stink.”
My body slid back to the horizontal position as soon as the door closed. With an hour left at my disposal, I brooded over my new plan for tonight – confronting the woman responsible for last night’s fiasco.