This was wrong. This was wrong on so many levels. This was a crime against, well nature, life, freedom, whatever. She had to stop this. Maybe it was kind of late but better late than never. Ok, she was going to do it now. Ready, set, go and she couldn't find her voice. He was smiling, he actually looked happy. Maybe, just maybe this was some sort of twisted fate. Besides, if she was really honest, it was kind of late to change anything now. The wheels had been set in motion and this train was on a roll, where it was headed only heaven knew.
Aiko felt like screaming but she couldn't, she was in public, she was in Starbucks to be exact and it was one of those busy times. Just screaming out of the blue would certainly not go down well with the other customers. She had just gotten off the phone with her her mother who was busy planning her wedding. Exciting right? But Aiko had been single for nearly three years and she was turning 26 in two months. For some reason this was the limit for her mother. Basically, the bottom line was that she was going to get married this year, at most in seven months. Whom to, only her mother knew. If Aiko didn't get a husband in seven months, her mother was going to get one for her. Her father was not as vocal about the marriage issue, but he had never said or done anything to reign his wife in, they were probably in this together. The chances of her meeting, dating and wanting to marry someone in seven months was almost impossible. She looked at her hand and realized she was subconsciously attempting to squeeze the life out of her cellphone. Breaking a thousand dollar phone would on top of all her drama would not be wise, she proceeded to gently put it on the table.
"That is a very smart decision" , a voice said and she looked up to fond her best friend looking like he was about to laugh. " Don't you dare laugh at my misery Hiro-kun!" She said in the most threatening voice she could manage which only got Hiroshi laughing. He asked if she had ordered, she hadn't. "Caramel mocha?" ,he asked
"Ask if they can trade it for a shot of whisky " ,she replied making him laugh even more.
Aiko and Hiroshi had known each other for nearly twenty years and they had spent about fifteen of those as best friends. Growing up and working in different fields had meant they no longer saw each other as often as they used to so meet ups like this were quite special.
"I was going to ask you what you wanted for your birthday but after seeing you try to strangle your phone I am more interested in that." "Well if you get me a husband for my birthday, not only will i be forever indebted to you, you'll have saved my phone from an untimely demise."
The best thing about having a best friend you had grown up with was that you never had to explain much. They knew your life as well as they knew their own. For about five years now, Aiko's mother's obsession with getting her daughter married off had become a sort of joke between Aiko and Hiroshi. Although Hiroshi's parents wanted him to get married,there was no pressure. He had older siblings who had gotten married and provided grandchildren for everyone to fuss over. Aiko on the other hand was an only child so the pressure was all on her. Having Hiroshi in her life was like having a best friend and a brother rolled into one. For Hiroshi coming from a family of boys, Aiko was like his self-adopted sister. They had met in kindergarten and though they had not instantly become friends, their mothers had.
It had turned out that they lived in the same neighborhood. soon afterwards, joint trips to the park and school runs became the norm and for the first year in elementary school a lot of Aiko and Hiroshi's classmates thought they were related since they almost always came and left school together. It wasn't however till around age 9 that they officially became best friends. Aiko had just gotten braces and the other kids were having a field day making fun of her 'new look'. On this particular day, a group of girls from their class was being especially nasty to Aiko on the playground. She was on the verge of tears when she felt someone grab her hand and proceed to tell the girls that if they ever bullied his sister again they would have to deal with him. It was Hiroshi. Although they were the same age, Hiroshi had always been a tall and very confident child which made him appear older than her. After that , the bullying had stopped. The news had gone around, you mess with the girl with the braces her brother will mess with you. Years later, Aiko had asked Hiroshi how he had known where to find her at that specific moment. Apparently one of his friends had seen her then gone on to to tell him that his sister was in trouble and he knew that meant her.
A few years later, Aiko had started her period for the first time at school and Hiroshi had been the first person she told. After school, she had planned on going home straight. The only reason she had told him was because since they always went home together she needed to tell him why she was leaving earlier than usual. Hiroshi however would not hear of it. He skipped badminton practice together with her that day, explaining to the coach that he needed to take his sister home because she was not feeling well. On their way home though, he had mentioned that they needed to buy her sanitary pads. She was mortified. It was bad enough that he knew. Hiroshi on the other hand appeared totally unfazed by it all. He had literally dragged her into the nearest convenience store to shop. When she wouldn't bring herself to choose a band, he had picked the one with purple packaging because she liked purple. He had then dragged her to the till, where he paid acting like it was the most ordinary thing he was doing. Aiko could have died! payments done, he had handed her the package pointed towards the rest rooms and added, "I'll wait here." she had used the same brand ever since.
Their past however was not all dramatic events. They had had their air share of good and bad times from road trips to near tragedies. Hiroshi had been involved in an accident which had resulted in him being in crutches for nearly a month. In that month following his discharge from hospital, Aiko had moved in with him so she could take care of him. This was even though it meant her daily commute to work would be almost two hours.
Even when they were not saving each other, Aiko and Hiroshi cherished their friendship and kept in touch even when they could not meet. As they cleared their trays, Hiroshi reminded Aiko that although he would be out of the country a lot over the next couple of weeks, he would be back for her birthday weekend.
Änd don't forget to import me an exotic husband from one of your fancy destinations", Aiko added as they parted ways, each heading back to their respective homes.
Aiko woke up to tons of birthday messages. It was a Saturday which meant no work and she had planned on having a small dinner party with her friends that evening. Even her parents had sent her their well wishes with no mention of a husband or marriage for which she was grateful. Today she was just going to enjoy the company of her friends.
As she was having breakfast, she got a call from Hiroshi saying that although he wasn't back in town yet, he would be there for the dinner. She wasn't worried. they had not missed each others birthdays in two decades.
"Oh by the way" , he said just before hanging up, "I found you a husband" , then he was gone.
Aiko was left firing questions to the dialing tone. This would not be the first time Hiroshi had tried to 'hook her up'. Though there hadn't been any disastrous pairings - yet- it was safe to say his taste in women was better than his taste in men. The rest of the day flew by and Aiko soon forgot about her impending blind date/birthday present.
By 5:30 p.m. everyone of her guests except Hiroshi had arrived. She was just about to text him when she got a text from him first saying he was running late but he would be there. Since he had not specified how soon he would arrive, everyone decided they were going to start without him. They had all just finished singing the birthday song and taking funny pictures of Aiko as she blew out the candles when the doorbell rang. Hana, one of Aiko's friends went to answer it and returned telling Aiko that there was a package that she needed to sign for. The deliver offered to bring the package which was quite large indoors but Aiko figured the could manage. Once he had left, Aiko and her friends were left wondering what the large box on the front lawn contained. "Someone bought you a freezer" ,Hana suggested and they all burst out laughing. Aiko then proceeded to pull the ribbon attachment which had a pull here sticker and the sides of the box immediately fell to the floor to reveal Hiroshi. He was on one knee, engagement ring in hand and as everyone looked on wide eyed he asked, Aiko-chan, will you have me as your forever gift?"
BACK TO OCTOBER
It was a good thing the aisle was so long. The closer Aiko got to Hiroshi the more faint her doubts became. She was marrying her best friend. It was crazy but iit was perfect. She had loved him her whole life, without the frills and illusions attached to wooing and dating. She reached his side and as her father placed her hand in his, she knew this was right. It had been right since that day on the playground