Management: As a response to the few people who requested to read it, below is Section II of my first short story of “Obedient Daughters.” It’s the portion of the short story that I loathe the least after reading it over, so hopefully when you read it, if you read it, you’ll actually enjoy it. Feel free to drop any constructive criticism in the comments section.
A fold up chair, seated next to a meter long, half a meter wide table. It hurt after a while to sit on it, the chafe of metal cold on thin cloth that just barely buffered your skin. To the back of me was a brown door. I stared at the bottom half of the door. The bottom half of the door is the part no one usually pays attention to. It was marked in burns of black, born likely from those times the black tips of boots must have beat its surface over and over. To the right was this faded brick wall, dull probably from years and years of abuse. Well, probably. To the left, more brick, and a large mirror, likely a one-way glass. A camera was perched just above, a sharp red light slightly larger than a pinprick glowing, ever watchful. To the front was another window, only smaller – this time two-way – leading to the outside world. It overlooked the gray streets and cars passing by, drivers unaware of anything happening in this room. An air conditioner blasting in chilling currents lay between.
One of the detectives brought me here from the room I was staying in while the house was being worked on. It was a temporary arrangement while the interior was being renovated. The den in particular was getting a major update. He showed me his badge, saying he just wanted to ask me a few questions back at the station.
I had no right to refuse.
Being where I am though, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. The word “interrogation” usually implies more than a casual chat, much less a few questions. And how did the police find out where I was staying? Did they find out from Otou-sama? Otou-sama knows everything somehow.
It’s been a while since they left me in. Not that I mind it; solitude’s something I’m used to. I looked down, playing with the crest on my coat and cuffs, emblazoned in gold leaf thread, Perfectum et Propiam. Good a phrase as any to write a song, I suppose. If Aki-chan were here, we could make up some lyrics, or maybe talk episodes. Or just talk.
“Ms. Aki Juushi?”
I look up to see a detective at the door. He was a different from the one I met before He was decked in a brown overcoat and a hat, like from that episode in Cowboy Bebop with all the film noir. He was humming. Behind him were two chairs his hands were trudging, both black, fitted with cushions. He dragged one to the right part of the table and then the other to my side. “Would you like this chair instead? He said, pointing to it.
My thighs were bright with searing stimuli charging up and down my lower periphery. What does he want? He obviously wants something. Everyone wants something, whether now or down the road. I could respond to it with a yes or a no, but no binary answer is going to help me figure out what he wants. Though, if I respond at all, that would obligate me into something. Why wasn’t everything ever simple?
Oh, I see. This was all planned, wasn’t it? This chair, and the cold air. It even feels like one of the seat’s legs is deliberately shorter than the other.
“I-is that a-an o-o-order?” I finally asked.
He looked at me rather curiously. “Do you want it to be?” I didn’t answer. Then he broke into a chuckle to stave off the silence. “Only if it’s my partner.”
It was a choice? I mean, he’s a detective after all-
“Gah!” The chafes began burning collectively, plus the nerves inside my back started feeling they were on hot coals. I looked back down hard, grasped my thighs, and winced before bolting up and changing seats to get it over with.
He smiled again before flattening the fold up and leaning it on the left wall. He returned to his own chair. “Comfortable?”
I fell for it, didn’t I?
“It’s the least I could do, after all.”
What do you mean by that? “W-what d-do you m-mean?”
“You don’t know?”
Well, I wouldn’t be asking, would I? All I know is, I’m stuck here, and I wanted to be unstuck as soon as possible and permitted to go back to my room. There, I’ll to do derivatives, study Chopin, cook supper, practice kanji, and go to bed. I’ll do the same tomorrow evening, no deviations save Chopin. Tomorrow’s Mozart.
“Or you don’t recall?”
For a brief instant, the kindly countenance he wore slipped into something strange before returning back to its previous expression. Something was bothering him. What was bothering him? Was I bothering him?
Then he chuckled: “I pull long hours regularly, so I can’t help coming off scatterbrained at times. Call me whatever you want, Miss. Or would you prefer I address you differently? Juu-chan? Juu-san?”
“No need for that. Detective’s fine.”
What do you want?
“I think your memory might be off.”
Then by all means Detective-sama, enlighten me from my supposed off-ness. Teach me the error of my ways. I am a stupid, foolish girl. I can write lines too, if you want to make sure I remember. I am a stupid, foolish girl. I am a stupid, foolish girl. I am a stupid, foolish girl…
Naturally, I remained silent. And, for whatever reason, he remained silent after that too. Scheming, probably. Planning his next move. I got morbidly curious about comparing the sensation of time passing with its artificial measure. It went on for a minute, approaching two, keeping careful tabs of every second, never giving one second more or less the amount of space it needed. Not like I had anything in life better to do at the moment, since they won’t freaking let me go. At the sixty second mark, I converted those seconds into a minute before counting all over at one. A minute fifty-four seconds… a minute fifty-five seconds… a minute fifty-six seconds…
Then he started humming again. Just a minute fifty-six, a full minute fifty-six, he starts humming. Of all things. No inquiries. No leading questions. No speculative fishing. Nothing. Just humming. Just… you’d think detectives would be more professional… wait a minute. A minute fifty-six?
I’ve heard it before. It’s a song… no, the title’s not a “minute fifty-six.” Even I wouldn’t blame Otou-sama for calling it a stupid name. It’s a slow tune. A sad tune. Then the melody’s tempo seemed turn effortlessly, and the atmosphere seemed imbibed with this passionate, yet wistful sense of melancholy, like someone reflecting how sad his or her life ended up being until now. Good… Goodnight-
He’s watched Cowboy Bebop?
“Songs like that just ekes out all the stress from you, you know? It was from the first episode of a two-parter. Jupiter Jazz, I think it was called. There was a bar… and a male prostitute… and a transvestite… and that song. A lovely woman behind all the musical arrangements for that show. What was her name? Yukiko…Youko…”
“Yoko.” I ended up blurting. “Y-Yoko Kanno.”
I couldn’t very well not state say her. So many amazing pieces in so many diverse genres, least of all jazz and blues. And she sounds like she has fun with every single one. Maybe I should end up transcribing a medley of her works instead. But besides that point.
How could he know I watch anime? Did Otou-sama tell him? No, not even Otou-sama’s aware. That’s the one thing I’ve made sure of that he shouldn’t know. He shouldn’t know. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t!
I mean, I hardly watch it at all. I only really watch an episode every other week with Aki-chan when Otou-sama’s out of town on business, and I make sure all my other duties are taken care of first. All of them. Chores, school, meals, even piano until my fingers stung.
He glanced somewhere next to my hands before giving me a great smile, wider than the ones before. “Took the words right out of my mouth. The music one of the things that really makes the show, don’t you think?”
“D-Did you know her l-learning’s all s-self-taught?”
“Oh, you know it. Made it just in time a few years before to listen to the Seatbelts firsthand.”
“Y-You did?” Yoko Kanno got this entire band together for Cowboy Bebop. They named themselves the Seatbelts because of how free-wheelingly passionate they got with their music. They likened that drive to needing seatbelts for safety while playing. I’d imagine I’d do the same, playing keyboard with a seatbelt fastening me in place. That’d of course be something Otou-sama would also never know. I could never really get my hands to move to that style though- Wait, he said few years. That means…
“…y-you went t-to their final c-c-concert…” I was in Japan that time. On a business trip that Otou-sama took me over to. “I was in the s-same city…”
“I suppose I did. I especially liked ‘Blue.’ Another relaxing song.”
He had that same curious look on him from earlier, but it seemed different. A little harder, perhaps? My face must have looked downcast. More downcast than usual, I guess. But that’s really nothing to waste energy on.
“W-Well, n-n-never mind that. Otou-sama… I-I m-mean F-Father w-wouldn’t have l-let me go if I-I asked. T-That’s how he is, after all.” I tried smiling a little myself. “…m-must look w-weird, I guess… k-kind of out of practice…”
“No, it looks great. You’d have convince me if I was your father.”
Whatever resembled a smile vanished, along with what felt like all the warmth from my face. Did I say that out loud? “T-Then D-Detective-sama-”
“Please, Juu-san, just Detective.”
That’s not fair!
“T-Then D-D-Detective-san, is it alright if… Aki-chan… I-I mean, a f-friend and I… we m-made up s-some lyrics for G-Goodnight Julia…”
“I’d love to hear them.”
“I-I’m not a v-very g-good singer though…”
“How about you just tell it to me like a lyrical poem? I can imagine the music in my head.”
I opened my mouth, my words just waiting to flow, but I closed it just before they streamed out, making this awkward muffling sound that one might interpret as clearing out one’s throat. Might? In fact, what was I doing, telling this detective all of this, telling him about my anime interests, my musical tastes, Otou-sama. Otou-sama, and now this? A joke. No, this must be a joke. A scheme. Yeah, a scheme. A scheme. No one ever bothers with me. No one ever cares. Not my school teachers, not my piano tutors… But with the detective staring at me expectantly… I mean, I asked him to hear me, after all. It’d be rude of me even if he was faking it. So I took a deep breathe. I closed my eyes, summoning up all will power, not much really, so I wouldn’t stutter, thinking of nothing else except the saxophone that was going to sound, and began:
“In this bar, in this den, even… even… even here in this place.
Faded surfaces and people that you meet.
Books and drinks that you can’t eat.
“Faded walls, faded halls, faded… faded… faded faces forced to greet.
Empty bottles, broken bottles strewn the space.
Books, torn and textless, here in this place.
“And as the piano plays out loud.
The sax and heart screams and shouts.
It yearns for more.
And when I opened my eyes, there was no gentle smile or warm applause to greet me. Just his face, all hard and cold and contorted.
This was a mistake. This was a… I want to go back. I want this to end. Aki-chan please… I… I want to to be left alone, just… I want to be alone!
“I also like analyzing the themes of the media I watch, Cowboy Bebop’s. Included. Taken by subtext, all these characters are misfits drifting the fathomless void, doing whatever job they come across, subsisting by the thinnest of threads, fighting the fact that outside their spaceship, the Bebop…”
Are you’re saying I belong to the Bebop?
“…they are lost…”
Well, I don’t. I don’t belong even there.
Leave me alone! Just…
“Ms. Juushi, I’d like to ask about your father.”