ONS?!

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*
*

Matsui Jurina knew from the moment she opened her eyes, that something was out of kilter. The splitting headache pounding inside her temples louder than a road drill was a bit of a giveaway. The light in the room was also different somehow, softer and less intrusive.

She feebly attempted to move, but her head hurt too much, so she lay back down and tried to piece together the events of the previous evening.

Miichan surprised her with a birthday party. She could remember that at least. Thereafter, it faded into an alcoholic blur of worrying proportions.

At first, Jurina was having a great time since it’s her birthday party. Until Fujita Nana showed up, and the atmosphere suddenly turned bitter.

Nana.

The woman who had led her merrily up the flower garden path for one and a half years, until Nana confessed that she had an “accidental” affair with a co-worker.

“I accidentally had sex with a co-worker.” Nana whispered, looking down to the floor.

“Accidentally?!” Jurina’s tone of voice was sarcastic. “Did he “accidentally” stripped off your clothes? Did you “accidentally” beg for him to have sex with you? Did you “accidentally” forget about me?” She yelled.

Nana started to cry. “I was drunk that night. I love you Jurina, please believe me…”

*

*

The faint sound of a running shower intruded Jurina’s thoughts and she frozed. Damn. She wasn’t alone. Frantically she tried to recall talking to any strange person last night, but her mind was a total blank.

Deciding that the pain of movement was a necessary evil, Jurina sat up and made a concerted effort to take in to her surroundings.

A first cursory glance, told her she was most definitely not at Miichan’s residence. The decors was too bland for one thing and the room was too large for another. It had to be a hotel. Where on earth that hotel might be located was another story. Although, this was somewhat overshadowed by the more pressing question of who her roommate was?

Then she looked down and saw to her dismay, she was totally naked. Shit. Could it get any worse?

Her clothes appeared to be strewn around the room like confetti. One lone stocking hung from a chair and her underwear was draped across the LED screen TV like a garish silly strings.

All the evidence strongly suggested she had done the one thing she tried not to do where at all possible.
Wine, beer, or indeed any other drink— she could handle, but for some reason “vodka” was a one-way ticket to sin and suffering. The last time she’d overindulged on Absolut, she had met Nana.

And look where that one ended.

It was no good. The realisation that whomever that person willl be, was almost certainly about to emerge from the bathroom like a bad smell catapulted Jurina up from amidst the ruins of the king-size bed. She grabbed her clothes, flung them on in no particular order, and legged it.

*

*

Miichan fixed Jurina with an expression of unbridled horror. “What on earth happened to your head?”

“I don’t know!” Wailed Jurina, still trying to puzzled together the events of the previous evening. “I was hoping you could tell me.”

She had gone over to the initial crime scene in the hope that her friends might be able to fill in the frustrating gaps in her memory. But so far, all she’d done was provoke a gale of laughter, followed by some serious lecturing.

Jurina was still smarting from the ordeal she’d had in the hotel. The fact she had put her blouse on back to front had drawn unwanted attention during her great escape. An elderly man, on his way back to his room, had nearly had a cardiac arrest when he entered the lift to see Jurina frantically trying to fasten her bra whilst shoving stockings into her tiny purse.

To her everlasting shame, Jurina realised she probably resembled a hooker on the run from a disgruntled client, but there was no way she was hanging around to face the music with her hit and run. Jurina shuddered at the recollection.

“For Christ sake, Jurina, we had no idea where you’d buggered off to! Sayanee was on the verge of calling the police!”

Jurina raised one eyebrow in disbelief.

“Oh ok, maybe she wasn’t that concerned, but even so!”

Jurina knew damned well Sayanee would have been far too busy making eyes at Milky to even notice what planet she was on, let alone care to where she had disappeared. Miichan’s sister had a crush the size of Japan’s and it was growing larger by the day. It was just a pity Milky wasn’t interested. Poor Sayanee.

“If only I could remember what I did.” Jurina sighed.

She picked up the glass from the table and stared mournfully into the dregs of some foul looking green liquor.

“Last time I saw you, you were knocking back the Absolut like it was orange juice.”

“Ohhh,” Jurina groaned. “Why didn’t you stop me?”

“I tried, but you told me to back off.” Miichan folded her arms and scowled. “I was only trying to help.” She said grumpily.

Not that Miichan was helping. She was too busy throwing herself whole-heartedly into the role of Jurina’s erstwhile mother.

“Yeah, I know you would have been, I’m sorry.” Jurina quickly apologised. “I was just in a shit mood.” She gave Miichan a ghost of a smile. “I do remember that much at least.”

Miichan’s expression softened marginally. “Yeah, I’m, sorry too. For what it’ s worth, I told Sayanee not to invite Nana, but she didn’t get my mesage until it was too late.”

“Doesn’t matter. What’s done is done, now.” Jurina stood, rubbing her temples as her headache continued to throb like a thrash metal band on acid. She winced when her fingers brushed across the lump on the side of her head. “Whoever I ended up with last night will probably forever remain a mystery. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Ok, I’m off home to catch some sleep, before I go to Mom’s this afternoon.”

*


*

Jurina’s phone blipped just as she raised her hand to knock on their front door, and she frowned.

“It better not be Mom asking me to fetch some milk.”

Unfortunately, the screen told a different story.

“About last night…”
A message from Nana.

“You rushed off before we had a chance to talk please call me! Xxx”

Jurina’s blood ran cold. Oh shit. She rested her head against the gravely texture of the wall, and wondered whether it would be a good time to slit her wrists right now, or after dinner had been dished up. The horrifying realisation that she had probably gone to bed with Nana… again… made her feel like screaming. Why on earth did she keep going back to that woman? Was it not enough that she had hurt and cheated on her and let her down more times than she could remember?

Apparently not as it now appeared she was still a masochistic glutton for punishment. On the bright side, at least she had no recollection of doing the deed. Clearly the earth hadn’t moved enough to penetrate her alcoholic state of amnesia. Then she clapped her hand to her mouth. Maybe she hadn’t even been conscious? That was even worse. The thought of Nana taking advantage of her whilst she was totally out of it was hideous. She just hoped she hadn’t taken any incriminating photographs…

For now, ignoring her was by far the best policy, so Jurina shoved the phone to the bottom of her bag where it was firmly buried beneath her collection of lip glosses and train tickets.

“Jurina! Are you coming in or what?” Her mom flung the door open and Jurina nearly fell over a yapping poodle. She playfully rubbed its coat and gently lift the dog in her arms and followed her mom through to the kitchen. The scent of over cooked cabbage virtually knocked her sideways when she walked in. Her dad was sitting at the wooden dining table, his nose buried in newspaper.

“Hello, love.” Her dad’s greeting, as she approached the table. He got up from his seat and hug Jurina tightly. “Happy Birthday.” He said. Then he frowned when he looked down. “You look peaky today. Ooh that’s a nasty bump on your head how did you manage to get that? Is everything ok?”

“I’m fine, Dad,” Jurina replied hurriedly. “I fell over in the bath; no harm done.” The last thing she needed was an in-depth analysis of what might be wrong. Besides, if she had no recollection of how she had acquired a blow to the head, how on earth was she going to explain it to her parents?

“A good decent meal will sort you out, my girl. Happy Birthday.” Her mom kissed her on the cheek. Before slopping a huge portion of rank cabbage on a plate, followed by some leathery looking beef. Jurina placed down the panting brown poodle loitering with intent by her foot and knew which one of them would be eating the beef. It definitely wasn’t going to be her.

“Thanks, Mom,” She managed to say through gritted teeth as the bowl of rice placed down in front of her. “That looks lovely!”

*

*

After seventeen increasingly rate text messages, Jurina turned her phone off and wondered what on earth she had ever seen in Nana. Ok, so she was damed beautiful and gorgeous, but Nana cheated on her.

“Why I can’t believe I fell for her bullshit again last night.”

“Hey!” Laughed Miichan and Jurina realised she had been thinking aloud. Miichan looked up from the sink with surprise. “What on earth are you waffling on about?”

“Nana,” Jurina said. “I think I ended up with her last night.”

“It can’t have been Nana!” Soapy suds dripped all over the floor as Miichan turned to face Jurina. “After you disappeared, she bent Sayanee’s ear for an hour and then passed out on the sofa. She ended up staying here all night.”

“Then who on earth did I spend my night with?”

“Maybe if you hadn’t done a runner, you might have found out?”

Jurina grimaced with great irritation while Miichan smirked.

Hopefully, after a good night’s sleep, all would become clear. Surely by the morning, she would remember what and, more importantly, who she had done last night. Alcohol induced amnesia couldn’t possibly last forever…

*

*

The office was buzzing when Jurina staggered in, rather late. She dropped her belongings on her desk and rushed over to the coffee machine. Despite sleeping like a dead thing, she still felt crap. After seeing her corpse-like complexion in the bathroom mirror, she had made an early New Year resolution to avoid vodka Forever. It was safer that way.

“How’re you feeling, Jurina?” Milky asked innocently when Jurina flopped down on her chair and collapsed face first on the pile of files some kind person had conveniently deposited.

“Ooh that looks nasty.” She then commented when she noticed the bump on Jurina’s head. “Did you pass out at some point and hit your head?”

“Ha. Ha. Ha. No, I walked into a cupboard.”

Milky looked less than convinced. “Oh dear, poor you. So, were you feeling pretty hung over yesterday?”

“No, not at all.” Jurina knew better than to tell Milky about her mystery shag. She wasn’t known for keeping her mouth shut on matters of confidentiality . In fact, what Sayanee saw in her was baffling. The only part of Milky that stood out was her boobs, they were undeniably magnificent.

“How ‘s Sayanee, anyway?” Jurina asked in an attempt to divert the attention away from her embarrassing behaviour at the party.

“Who?”

That kind of says it all, thought Jurina with exasperation. “You know, Sayanee. Miichan’s sister, who drools every time you show up.”

A light evidently switched on in Milky’s head. “Oh her!” Then she shrugged. “No idea. she went off to get me a drink and the next time I saw her, she was sitting with some girl on the sofa. I gave up on her and went outside.”

Poor Sayanee. She didn’t stand a chance. Not that ending up saddled with Nana had helped her case. For a moment she felt guilty about that. But it wasn’t her fault. Talking to Nana last night wouldn’t have achieved anything. She had made her bed and now she would have to lie in it.

“So you’re not interested in Sayanee?”

Milky looked rather surprised. “She’s ok, I guess.” She admitted with a shrug. “Why?”

Jurina decided once and for all to get Sayanee’s crush out into the open. It was obvious Sayanee was never going to have the courage to ask Milky out.

“Sayanee had a huge crush on you, but she’s too shy to tell you.” She clicked her tongue and shook her head.

“Really?” Milky looked astonished. It was as if the idea had honestly never occurred to her.

“Yes, really, now would you like her mobile number and then you two can make babies together?” Jurina responded while smirking.

“I’m not sure about the babies bit.” Milky replied with a squeamish look. “But she is rather cute, so I suppose I could text her and see where she wants to take me. I’m free tomorrow as it happens.”

“Great.” Jurina rapidly fired off Sayanee’s mobile number and sat back with great sense of philanthropic well-being. Even if her own love life was a crock of shit, she was about to make two other poor sods happy. Probably not for long, though, knowing Milky’s predilection for changing partners as quick as changing her clothes. With a bit of luck, once Sayanee had finally sampled her dubious delights, she might realise she really was a vacuous Barbie doll and move on to better things. She could live in hope.

As Milky strolled away, fingers flashing across the screen of her iphone, Jurina blearily looked towards the main office with a vague sense that she ought to be doing something useful before the Monday staff meeting at eleven.

A tall and gorgeous figure caught her eye and for a moment she had a sudden feeling that she looked familiar. There was something in the way she tucked her hair to her right ear as she stood talking to Miyazawa-san, the warehouse manager. Jurina could have sworn she had seen this woman before, although where that might have been she had no idea.

“Who’s that?” She asked Milky when she came back from the photocopier.

“She’s Matsui Rena, the new sales rep. I heard she’s from Nagoya.”

“Matsui huh, …And she hasn’t worked here before?” Jurina unconciously asked.

“New’ generally does mean that, yes.” Milky looked at Jurina as if she was stupid. “Jeez, you really killed a lot of brain cells on Saturday night. Be careful, Ju, binge drinking is seriously bad for your health.” She frowned and shook her head. “I read that in Health magazine last month so I know it’s true.”

“At least I had some fucking brain cells to begin with!” Jurina muttered as Milky dashed away to answer the call that was making her phone vibrate alarmingly across her desk.

Jurina looked back across the room, but to her inexplicable disappointment, the new girl had vanished, so she opened her inbox and began working her way through a long selection of very dull emails.

It was just another manic Monday.

*

By mid afternoon, Jurina’s head was throbbing again and she felt like crying. Work was piling up on her desk with alarming regularity, yet her brain was refusing to process any of it. Maybe Milky had made a good point earlier. Maybe she had indeed fried her little grey cells. Or, more likely, simply pickled them.

Whatever it was, she had had enough and wanted to go home. But since the day didn’t officially finish until half five, she took a meandering route to the water cooler for a drink. There was only so much coffee she could drink in one hour.

She decanted a plastic cup of water and turned to head back to her desk. Unfortunately, she failed to see Matsui Rena “the new girl” approaching and promptly walked straight into her. Water went everywhere.

“Oh I’m so sorry!” Jurina apologised as she surveyed the damage.

Rena’s elegant black blazer was now thoroughly wet. When Jurina managed to drag her eyes back up to her face, the short-haired girl was staring at her with a very strange expression. Her fringe slightly covering her left eye.

It was as if she thought she knew her, yet she was fairly positive they had never met before. Or had they? For a shaky moment, she had a strong sense that she should know who she was.

“Have we met before?” Jurina asked eventually when it became apparent she wasn’t about to say a word.

“You tell me?” The new girl also asked, raising an eyebrow.

Now Jurina was being obtuse. “Would I be asking whether I knew you, if I knew you?” She snapped.

“Then obviously you don’t know me at all.” She said cryptically before doing an about turn and leaving the office.

Jurina watched her go still prickling with irritation, yet sensing that she had missed an important clue somewhere along the line. If only her head would clear. Maybe then she might be able to make sense of the last two days. But that was wishful thinking, so she collected a replacement cup of water and made her way back to her desk to clock watch for the rest of the afternoon. Home time could not come soon enough.

*

*

*

“Are you coming down the bar?”

Jurina looked up from her screen and blinked. “What’s the occasion?”

It was only Wednesday and she was still suffering after the weekend. The last thing she needed was another hangover.

“Miyazawa-san suggested drinks. It’s her birthday and she’s feeling generous.” Milky leaned back to rest her butt against Jurina’s desk. “So, are you coming or what.”

Jurina paused to think for a moment. “Yeah, okay, I’ll come for a couple.” She needs a drink or two to unwind and, maybe after she’s nice and relaxed.

*

*

“Still suffering?” Asked Milky when she noticed Jurina’s fruit juice.

Jurina sipped the tomato juice defiantly and wished she had ordered beer instead. She was in terrible mood and listening to turgid conversation for the next hour was unlikely to improve things.

“No.” She replied eventually. “I’m on a health kick and it involves ingesting five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. This counts as one portion.”

“Well I’m on the Atkins Diet and there’s my next portion of meat.” Whispered Milky with a lecherous look at the bar tender mixing her cocktail.

“You’re disgusting.” Jurina instantly regretted passing Sayanee’s number to Milky. The poor woman was doomed.

Milky ignored Jurina’s jibe. Instead she leaned over the bar to pay for her drink, making damned sure her cleavage was on full show at the same time. Jurina saw the bar man’s eyes glaze over lustfully as he passed Milky the drink, his fingers lingering way too long when their hands touched. It was obvious that Milky had pulled yet again.

That depressing thought kept Jurina immediately headed for the table where the rest of her co-workers were sitting. So much so that she failed to spot the plastic bag somebody had abandoned by a stool. Her foot caught in the strap and she tripped, falling straight into the lap of ‘the new girl.’

Tomato juice flew all over her in ruby red rivulets.

“OH MY GO—!”

Jurina grabbed the first body part she could reach in an effort to extricate herself from the unfortunate tangle of limbs. When she realised it was Rena’s thigh, she let go as if she’d been electrocuted. Could this be any more embarrassing?

Rena’s once ivory shirt was now pink and mauve and her dark skirt were stained with a ruinous darker patch. Jurina’s cheeks complemented the shirt perfectly; startling magenta.

“God, I’m so sorry… again.”

“Are you always this clumsy?” Her expression was one of complete exasperation rather than fury, for which Jurina felt some relief.

“Well, yes, actually, I suppose I am.” Subconsciously her hand reached up and rubbed the sore lump on her head.

Rena sighed. “Would you like a replacement drink?”

She stared at her in surprise. “You’d buy me a drink after I threw the last one all over you?”

“I figure it’s safer than watching you make another trip.” Her lip curled up at the corner and Jurina blushed all over again. “What’ll it be? Same again? Or would you prefer a vodka?”

“No, I’m not—” She stopped abruptly. “How did you know I drink vodka?”

“You really don’t remember, do you?”

There was something going on beneath the surface and she had a feeling she needed to find out what it was. “No, remember what?”

“We’ve met before— Saturday night to be exact.”

Jurina sat down with a bump. Her heart was pounding inside her chest so hard she wondered if Rena could hear it. “Where?”

“You ran into the road, right in front of my car and I nearly hit you.”

She tried to recall doing such a stupid thing, but there was still a blank page in her memory. It was so frustrating.

“Are you sure it was me?” It was possible she had mistaken her for some other drunken woman. After all, on the average Saturday night, there were usually hundreds of drunken women around.

“Jurina, you’re not that easy to forget,” Rena replied with a faint smile.

She knew then she was telling her the truth. At no point had she told Rena her name.

“You really don’t remember what happened, do you?”

Jurina gazed into her orange flecked brown eyes and wished intently that she could remember what had happened. She had a strong feeling that she had enjoyed whatever it was. The woman was gorgeous. Who wouldn’t enjoy a few hours in her company?

“No.” She admitted sadly.

Rena stared pensively into her pint glass before looking up and saying, “Well then, I guess we’ll have to start all over from scratch. My name’s Rena.”

“Jurina.” She replied, shaking her proffered hand and feeling rather stupid.

“It’s a pleasure, Jurina.” She grinned. “Are you doing anything this evening?”

“Erm… no, not much?” She decided it was probably best not to mention the pile of ironing that she had scheduled to do when she got home.

“Great, me neither. How about we go somewhere a little less noisy and get something to eat?”

Jurina glanced sideways and saw the bartender drooling at Milky as the top button of her blouse had popped open. A broad lascivious smile spread across her face. It looked like it would only be a matter of time before the Black widow went into a feeding frenzy. Jurina cringed and instantly decided she preferred watching such stomach churning events on the Discovery Channel.

She gave Rena her undivided attention. “Sounds lovely!”

If nothing else, at least she could find out just what embarrassing things she had done the first time they met. She just hoped it didn’t involve anything illegal.

*

Jurina sat down in the small, intimately lit Italian restaurant and briefly gave herself a sanity check. As far as she knew, Rena was not a nutter, but since she still couldn’t remember the circumstances of their first alleged meeting, how could she be certain?

But maybe that was a little paranoid, so instead Jurina watched Rena as she ordered two drinks and tried once again to break through the memory block. Surely she would recall sharing a bed with somebody this sexy?

Absently, she rubbed the still-sore spot on her head, and winced. Clearly the knock to her head had left lasting damage. That and the vodka abuse.

When the tall glass of vodka, lime and soda was placed in front of her, she looked at it as if it were witches’ brew.

“Wrong brand?” Rena asked with amusement.

“No, I’m just not supposed to be drinking tonight.”

“Well at least that won’t add any more stains to my clothing.” Commented Rena with a wry glance at her ruined white shirt.

Jurina buried her face in the menu and pretended that the long list of pasta dishes was utterly absorbing.

*

Several glasses later, and Jurina was feeling no pain. She was also finding it remarkably easy to forget her previous vow to abstain from alcohol. Rena was a very bad influence, Jurina decided as she laid claim to the last piece of delicious focaccia bread. The woman was also very good company. So much to the point that Jurina could barely remember who Nana was. Not that Nana had taken her out all that often anyway as the majority of the time her idea of a date involved her getting laid.

“Penny for them?” Rena asked when she failed to respond to something the woman had said.

“They’re not worth that much,” Jurina replied with a grimace.

And Nana wasn’t. She could see that now; it was just a pity it had taken so long for the enchanted veil to lift.

“Anyway, thanks for the meal— I’ve really enjoyed it.” Jurina said as the waiter cleared their dishes and they were left contemplating the dessert menu.

“Well at least this time you ate something before passing out.” Rena commented as Jurina debated whether it would be rude to ask for a pudding as well.

She instantly looked up in mortification. “Oh God, was I really that bad?” She hung her head in shame. Why oh why couldn’t she remember any of this?

“Yeah, you were pretty wasted.” Rena laughed. “But you were also pretty upset, hence me not wanting to abandon you. I tried to find out where you lived, but I couldn’t get any sense out of you.”

“Do you make a habit of playing good samaritan to drunken people?”

“No, not usually, but then I’ve never had a lady attempt suicide beneath the wheels of my car.”

“I just wish I could remember!” Jurina wailed. The waiter hovering nearby raised one eyebrow in concern before scuttling off, obviously thinking that she was mentally unhinged.

“Well you did hit your head hard enough to pass out for a few seconds. I was going to take you to the hospital, but when you came round, you insisted you were ok and that you just needed a drink of water, so I took you into the hotel with me.”

Jurina’s imagination filled the gaps in what Rena was telling her. She cringed at the mental image of herself, pissed out of her head, emotional, and concussed to boot. It wasn’t pretty. Why on earth Rena had taken it upon herself to help her was a mystery. In her shoes, she would have run a mile.

“It was your bed I woke up in, wasn’t it?” At least it wasn’t some lecherous troublemaker she had picked up in an alcoholic haze. Even better, at least it wasn’t Nana’s bed she had ended up in. The ramifications of that would have been far longer reaching.

Rena nodded before drinking the final dregs of her liquor. “I suppose technically it was the hotel’s bed rather than mine.”

“And what erm… did we do before… erm me falling asleep?” Jurina had to ask. If she had behaved like a total slut, then at least it was better to know now rather than hear the gory details via the office gossip machine.

“We talked a little, you cried a lot, and then I watched a movie while you snored for Nagoya.”

“So erm… n-nothing happened?” Jurina hesitantly asked. Though she didn’t know if Rena were into girls.

“Jurina, whatever you might be thinking, I can assure you, I’m not the type of person who enjoys taking advantage of drunken women. I prefer my partners to be at least semi-conscious.” A playful smile on Rena’s face.

Jurina scanned her face carefully to see if she could detect any signs of lying. But she couldn’t. Rena looked and sounded like she was telling her the truth.

“Then how come I had no clothes on?” Whilst Jurina wanted to believe her, she still couldn’t help but think that something had happened.

Rena looked away and gazed intently at a large potted plant near the window. In an instant, Jurina guessed that her instinct was spot on— something had happened all right. Of course! It was known as the ‘mushroom effect’— feed her shit, keep her in the dark, and she was as happy as, well, a mushroom!

“You erm… tried to seduce me.” Rena coughed before Jurina could fling abuse at her.

In an instant, her face flushed with heat. “What!?” Jurina squeaked with horror. “But I thought you said I fell asleep while you watched a movie!”

“You did fall asleep, but not until you’d done a dance on me!”

Jurina buried her face in her serviette and wished there was a deep fissure in the earth’s crust, right beneath the restaurant, one that conveniently decided to open up and swallow them. Unfortunately, nothing happened.

“Oh my God.” She whispered, utterly mortified that she had behaved like such a trollop.

It was obvious that Rena didn’t fancy her or she wouldn’t have rejected her drunken advances. Strangely enough, that stung even more.

“Oh trust me, I wasn’t complaining all that much at the time.” Rena laughed. “I just didn’t want to take advantage of you when you were drunk, emotional, and probably concussed.”

Jurina peeked through her fingers at her. Rena was grinning cheerfully.

“You could have put some clothes back on me once I fell asleep.” Jurina pointed out accusingly.

“Nah, I was too busy enjoying the view.” Rena chuckled, then ducked to avoid the serviette Jurina threw with no accuracy whatsoever.

*

Water dripped from the edge of the awning that covered the restaurant entrance. Jurina eyed the large puddles that had collected on the pavement with great suspicion. “My shoes are gonna get ruined.” She moaned.

“Yeah, mine too.” Rena added then sigh. She took Jurina’s hand and dragged her out into the light rain that fell from an inky sky. “Do you live far away?”

“About a fifteen minute walk.” Jurina told her as she jogged in an attempt to keep up with Rena’s much faster stride. It occurred to her rather crossly that at this rate they would probably make it in less than five. But the feel of Rena’s hand wrapped around hers was strangely comforting.

By the time they reached her front door, her hair was plastered to her head and she knew she looked a mess. Strangely, she didn’t care. Rena seemed in no rush to release her hand, instead she stared out over the twinkling city stretched out below.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Rena commented after a moment.

“I guess.” Jurina replied. “Suppose I don’t notice anymore. Been here too long I think.”

“Not much view from my hotel room. It looks out onto a ventilation shaft.”

Jurina felt sorry for her. Living out of a suitcase was crap.

“You can come in for a coffee if you like?” Jurina offered.

It wasn’t as if anything was going to happen, Jurina quickly reminded herself. It was late, after all, and they both had work in the morning. Besides, the last time they had met, she had been rat-assed. This time she was relatively sober and therefore fully in control of her wayward libido.

“That would be nice.” Rena responded.

Her teeth gleamed brightly in the glow from the street lamp and Jurina was suddenly reminded of a picture in an old fairy tales book she had once owned— the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood had also grinned in much the same fashion… shortly before he attempted to devour the poor, innocent Red Riding Hood. Jurina shivered while being acutely aware it couldn’t all be attributed to fear.

Rena was forced to let go of Jurina’s hand as the latter fumbled for her key. Eventually she opened the door to her building and they climbed the communal stairs. The light flickered on and off spookily and then went out, leaving only the emergency light glowing high above.

“Damn cheapskate landlord!” Jurina grumbled. “He takes our rent but never spends anything on this place.”

Just as Jurina turned to make sure Rena was behind her, the heel of her shoe caught on the edge of the stair. She felt herself falling sideways and reached out frantically for the banister, but her fingers touched nothing but air. Her head hit something painfully hard, and the world went black for the second time in a week.

*

“You have to be the most accident prone woman I’ve ever met.”

Rena told her when she opened her eyes, half expecting to see the stark décor of the local hospital. Instead the familiar beige walls of her flat were in very much in evidence.

Her head throbbed yet again, but something felt different. It was almost as if a door inside her mind had miraculously opened. In a blinding flash of recollection, she was suddenly blasted backwards in time to Saturday night and all the missing memories hurtled through her brain like a dazzling kaleidoscope. The incident that had sent her running from the party replayed in ghastly clarity…

*

Why is she here?! Jurina spat a question on Miichan, as she spotted Nana seating down on one of the garden chairs, holding a drink.

Why oh why had she come tonight? Jurina’s supposed to be celebrating. Unable to stay in her presence for another minute, Jurina grabbed her bag and dashed out of the garden and down the road, the vodka she had consumed sloshing around in her empty stomach nauseatingly.

The shops and flats merged into a teary blur. The pavements were fairly busy with Saturday night revellers and more than one person gave Jurina a passing glance of curiosity, but she ignored all of them. The only thought in her head was to get as far away as possible from the person who had messed her life up.

When she dashed across a road, hell bent on escape, it didn’t occur to her to stop, look, and listen for traffic. Consequently, she failed to spot the silver car heading straight for her. Fortunately for Jurina, the car was travelling very slowly and it skidded to an abrupt halt before actually hitting her.

The sound of squealing tyres registered briefly in her addled brain just long enough to stop her in her tracks. Her heel caught in a rut in the tarmac and she fell to the asphalted side of the road, hitting her head with a thump on the pavement. It was a painful end to her great escape.

“Are you ok?” A feminine voice was asking when she came too.

Jurina opened her eyes to find a pair of brown eyes mere inches from her face.

“Yeah, ouch, I think so.” Jurina managed to spit out. Everything was mixed up in her head and she wasn’t sure what had happened, Fresh tears began to slide down her cheeks and she angrily brushed them away.

“I think you ought to go for a check up.” The woman told her as she struggled to her feet, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in her head.

“No, I’m fine.” Jurina insisted. The thought of sitting for hours in the casualty department was hardly very appealing. “I just need to get home.”

“Where is home?” The woman asked.

It was a reasonable question, but for the life of her, Jurina couldn’t remember. “Erm actually I think I need a drink, or something.” She stalled.

If she admitted she couldn’t remember where she lived, she would be carted off in an ambulance in no time at all. She hiccupped as more tears fell and bounced off the pavement.

“Look.” The woman said patiently. “How about you let me park my car over there and then I’ll get you a glass of water in the hotel while you think about what you want to do. Ok?”

It seemed easier to do as she said. Jurina didn’t have the strength to argue anymore. The thing that happened right now had all gone leaving a broken shell behind. So she followed the woman into the hotel nearby and gratefully took the glass of water she fetched from the bar.

“You know, today is my birthday, but I had to runaway from my own party.” Jurina sniffed before gulping some down.

“Oh dear,” The woman replied with a faint smile. “Anyway Happy Birthday.”

Jurina burst into another jagged bout of crying and the woman passed her some tissues. Eventually there were no tears left to cry and she blew her nose rather noisily before dropping the tissue into the adjacent plant pot.

“Sorry.” The woman apologised.

“Forget about it. Most fun I’ve had all evening.”

Her head was spinning and she felt like crap, but it was hard to ignore the fact this woman was seriously pretty. “What’s your name?” Jurina heard herself asking in a flirtatious voice.

“Rena.”

“I’m Jurina.” She continued. Then remembering what had thrown her into Rena’s path, she asked, “Are you married?”

Rena looked slightly taken aback. “You don’t mess about, do you? Actually no, although I had a near miss two years ago.”

Jurina smiled and moved closer. Rena really did smell good: kind of sexy. She closed her eyes and rested her head on her shoulder. It wouldn’t hurt to sit here for a while. No. Once she had sobered up, she would ask somebody to call a taxi and head home, but not just yet. For now she felt… safe.

“Jurina, the bar’s closing. We need to move.”

She opened her eyes and looked around. Rena was right. The place was empty and the bar man was glaring at them whilst repeatedly glancing at the clock on the wall. Shit. She must have fallen asleep. Suddenly the prospect of going home to an empty flat was very unappealing. Tonight was not a night when she wanted to be alone.

“Is there a mini bar in your room?”

“Jurina, I think maybe—”

Jurina shushed Rena with her finger before saying, “Please, I don’t want to be on my own. My head hurts and I just want to talk.” She wiped a tear from her eye and sniffed.

“Well I suppose I ought to keep an eye on you if you still refuse to get a check up.” Rena frowned. “Just as well I have a first aid qualification.”

*

“Are you ok?” Rena was looking at Jurina with concern when she returned to the here and now after her jolly trip down memory lane.

Jurina rubbed her head. “It all came back to me.” She said. “I remember everything.”

Rena sat down on the step next to her and took her hand. “Hey, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t do anything bad!”

Jurina sniffed as tears pricked her eyes. “I seriously can’t dance though, can I?”

The memory of wiggling around in Rena’s hotel room, and the sound coming from the TV serves as background music, was mortifying. In fact, it was even more traumatic than being nearly hit by a car earlier.

“That’s not true.” Rena holding herself back from laughing. “In fact you’re an amazing dancer. Don’t you know that?”

Then Jurina felt her shaking with silent laughter and turned round accusingly.

“And you didn’t stop me from humilating myself in front of you!”

“I did try, but I was quite enjoying the spectacle!”

Rena stood and held out a hand. “Come on, you need a cup of tea and a lie down.”

*

*

Jurina knew from the moment she opened her eyes that something was out of kilter. Her head still felt sore, but at least there was no splitting headache pounding behind her temples. She looked at the clock on her table; it was still early, so at least she was not late for work. So what was different? Had she done something bad last night?

Then an arm snaked around her waist and somebody nuzzled her neck. “Good morning.” Said a sweet voice in her ear.

She relaxed and smiled. It was Rena, and for once she had done nothing she was ashamed of. In fact, despite the rocky start to their acquaintance, it appeared she had finally met a woman who was absolutely fabulous.

“Fancy a cup of tea?” She turned over to face her.

“Not yet,” Rena replied with a grin before kissing her senseless.

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