Our Wedding Anniversary Is Wrong, Unexpectedly
A great number of things can happen in fifteen years. Cities can change. Countries can adapt. Nations can transform.
Nothing is permanent, after all. Take Japan as an example: on the eve of 1938, it was a global superpower. A military machine, with hundreds of soldiers and warships and fighter planes providing the cogs that kept it turning. It seemed to be inexplicably linked with the notion of progress. It also seemed that very little could've prevented it from continuing its pursuit of this notion.
A mere 7 years later, and Japan was in ruins.
Almost everything in the world is transient. Empires can fall in the blink of an eye. Mountains can crumble with the click of a finger. If things of such enormity have little bearing on the power of time, then where does that leave human beings? We are just apes that, on the whim of evolution, decided it would be fun to start a civilisation. Our emotions are fleeting. A pessimist would claim that happiness is not really happiness at all, or at least not in the sense that most would perceive it. Those who claim themselves to be happy are just satisfied, or content, they would say. Happiness is just an ideal, they would say.
If someone asked them, Hayama Yukino and Hayama Hayato would undoubtedly say that they were happy.
But truth, like everything else, is relative. And words have an uncanny ability to be misleading.
In an upper class district of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, there is a mansion.
There are lots of mansions in this area of this city, but this one is particularly eye-catching simply because of its exuberance. It looks grand enough to be the product of someone's overactive imagination, or a particularly bizarre fever dream. It has a large metallic gate, that opens up onto a dirt pathway, that in turn leads up to the front doors. These front doors are huge, and if anything closer resemble the entrance to a medieval castle than they do a house plausible for someone to live in. The architecture is incredibly indulgent; no doubt the person commissioned to design it was paid handsomely. It has a large garden surrounding it, with grass that is trimmed regularly by the staff and a small hedge maze at the back. Children would probably love to play in it.
It's almost a little too perfect to be true.
On the 26th of November, on a chilly evening, it is illuminated by lots of bright, shining outdoor lanterns. The stars above only add to the almost ethereal effect. There is a banner strung up across the threshold- it reads as follows.
'Happy 15th Anniversary Hayama Hayato and Hayama Yukino!'
There are about five or six cars lined up around the front drive. The dirt pathway runs up a hill from the gates, so a passerby would have to crane their neck up a little to see the mansion in all its glory from the pavement, which is about a hundred yards away.
All the guests of the party have arrived.
Inside the mansion, there are too many rooms to count on a single person's hands. In other words, far too many rooms than is necessary. But, a few of them will be put to good use tonight, what with more people staying over than usual. The front hall has four rooms directly attached to it, as well as a swirling staircase that, should one use it, would take you up to the other two floors of the mansion. On your second right is the living room. This is where everyone is congregating.
There are seven people in the room. Hayama Yukino. Hayama Hayato. Miyaozo Yui. Miyaozo Kaito. Yukinoshita Haruno. Yukinoshita Aia. Hayama Emiko.
They are currently sat on the sofas of the room, enjoying each other's company and revelling in the cordial atmosphere. Hayama Yukino is dilligently serving wine. The Miyaozo's are recounting the story of their latest gig.
"Oh, it was absolutely amazing!" Yui babbles, lavishing hyperbole on the event. "I mean... they're all amazing, of course. Our fans are so kind and encouraging..."
She sighs in apparent bliss. She has already had a few glasses of wine.
The other occupants of the room glance at each other for a moment, wondering if she intends to continue. Her husband, Miyaozo Kaito, who is also the J-pop singer's guitarist, nudges her a little.
"Yui, the story?" he prompts.
"Oh!" she exclaims loudly. "Sorry!"
Yukino almost drops the wine bottle, and glares at her old friend. "Your concentration levels are just as fleeting as usual, I see."
Yui sticks out her tongue in an impeccable display of immaturity. "Meanie."
Everyone in the room chuckles at their usual antics. Well, except for the matriarch of the Yukinoshitas.
She'd hoped that her daughter's 15th wedding anniversary would be a little less... informal. Usually, she and her daughter, Haruno, team up to ensure that the event is a lavish, no expenses spared kind of affair. They invite all their usual business associates and rub their egos accordingly, while she boasts of the beauty that her two daughters possess. They'd received good genes, after all. She may be nearing the end of her fifties, but can still pass in a well cut dress.
But her youngest daughter, Yukino, has never quite been as submissive as she would've hoped. Haruno, as far as the matriarch is concerned, is the epitome of what a woman should be. Attractive. Witty. Amusing. Yukino is beautiful, yes, and witty, yes, but rather too brash and blunt. During her adolescence, they'd had numerous spats, laced with bitterness and antagonism. The matriarch had won out, of course, but the insolence of her daughter had not been forgotten.
She sips her wine. It is a shame, she thinks, that her husband could not attend. Him and the father of their closest ally in the corporate world, the Hayamas, were preoccupied with dietary matters. However, she can take solace in the fact that one of the only women she'd ever consider as a friend, Hayama Emiko, managed to free up her schedule. They attended the same high school together, and have always retained the strength of their bond. They'd married well. They'd lived satisfying, successful lives.
They share a glance.
The two women also have similar stances on parenting.
"Yukino darling," Hayama Hayato says, a broad smile on his face. "Come and sit down! You should be enjoying our anniversary."
"I am merely exercising my duties as the host dear," she replies, picking up the bottle once more.
"Yes, but everyone's already had a couple of glasses." He sends a teasing glance to Yui. "Some of us more than others."
"Hey!" she protests.
"Regardless Hayato," Yukino says, her voice smooth, "It is expected that we should be hospitable."
"But on our anniversary-"
"I'm inclined to agree with your wife here," Hayama Emiko intercepts. She once had hair as blonde as her son, but now, it is fading to grey like autumn to winter. "Let her serve the wine."
Hayama Hayato looks like he intends to protest further, but the unflinching stare of his mother seems to dissuade him.
Sensing the burst of momentary discomfort, Yui coughs.
"S- so how's your job going, Hayato?"
"Very well!' he says, smile returning. "You've probably heard already, but my father recently arranged my promotion to the executive board."
"That's wonderful, Hayato," Yukinoshita Aia says. She knew already, but it never hurt to be civil.
"Yes," he replies. "I've heard we're also lining up a potential deal with an industrial centre in Chiba."
"Chiba! How long has it been since we lived there, Yui?" Miyaozo Kaito sits back on the cofa, a nostalgic expression creeping onto his face.
"Chiba? Well... that must've been, like, five or six years!"
"Longer for us."
Kaito turns to Yukino. "Oh yes. You and Hayama moved to Tokyo a little while after you graduated from university, didn't you?"
Hayama nods. "Three years afterwards, so... oh God."
Yukino looks at her husband, eyebrows narrowed. "What, dear?"
He shakes his head. "Nothing darling, it's just... that was twelve years ago." He reaches forward and takes her slender fingers in his own. "I've been married to the woman I love for fifteen years. How lucky am I?"
A light flush arrives on the usually unflappable Yukino's cheeks. "Please refrain from such nauseating sentiment."
"It's not sentiment if it's true, darling. You look just as beautiful as the day we met."
The room practically swoons, only adding to her embarassment.
"T- that would be when we were children! Please think before expressing such potentially perverted-"
"Typical Yukino, unable to take a compliment."
Heads twist to Yukinoshita Haruno, who so far has been strangely quiet. She is wearing a tight red dress that clutches her figure in all the expected places.
"On the contrary Nee-san," Yukino retorts. "I'm perfectly capable of taking a compliment. Only when said compliment is made at an inappropriate time do I-"
"An inappropriate time!" Haruno laughs, raising her glass to her lips, which are adorned with rosy lipstick. "This is your wedding anniversary, little imouto! Surely now is more appropriate than ever."
She rolls her eyes. "Must you always be difficult, Nee-san?"
"Of course, darling. I relish in it."
The Yukinoshita matriarch sends them both a warning glare, but only Yukino is there to receive it. Haruno has returned to staring at the window.
"Are you feeling alright, Haruno?" Aia continues. "You're not usually so... absent."
The elder daughter's head snaps back to attention. "Oh, don't worry about me mother! I'm just so overwhelmed with joy for my younger sister's marrital success." She raises her now half full glass above her head. "I suggest a toast, everyone! To fifteen long years!"
They all follow suit. "To fifteen years!"
"And..." Haruno adds, "To the future."
The conversation continues in a similar vein. Yukino and Hayama had insisted that the milestone in their marriage be celebrated only with their closest friends and kin, so there are no troublesome distant relatives that might scupper the mood. There is plenty to discuss, with plenty of sniping jokes (many of them provided by the Yukinoshita sisters) to follow, and a serving of reminiscence alongside it.
Time passes by quickly, and all of a sudden, Yukinoshita Aia stands.
"Yukino, when I arrived, did you not mention that you'd had some alterations made to the guest rooms upstairs?"
"Yes mother, but can we not wait until to-"
"Oh nonsense dearest, you must show me right away! You know I have a passion for such matters."
"... Yes mother."
Haruno downs the rest of her wine. "I think I'd like to see them too, little imouto."
As the Yukinoshitas and Hayama Emiko make their way upstairs, Hayato makes use of his blinding smile once more. "Y'know, sometimes I forget that Kaito and you have been married almost as long as we have! Are things still going well?"
Yui nods enthusiastically. "Oh yes, the band are still going strong."
"I wasn't asking about the band. I was asking about you."
She looks a little taken back. "Oh... well..."
"I mean... with how much time we have to spend in the studio, I don't think-"
"She means to say that things are fine," Kaito interrupts. "Work can be a little trying at times, but we're still very happy."
He slips his hand onto the small of her back, and they smile.
"That's great to hear-"
Suddenly, the door knocks.
All three of them look up in surprise.
"That's a little odd," Hayato says eventually. "I thought everyone had already arrived."
"You didn't invite any other guests, did you?" Kaito asks.
The door knocks again.
Kaito clicks his fingers. "Oh, I know! I bet it will be your father in law, Hayato. Aia mentioned that he might be able to get out of the meeting a little early for your anniversary." He gets to his feet. "I'll go and get the door, shall I?"
Hayato nods, and he heads out into the hallway.
Kaito doesn't like to drink. He quit alcohol a couple of years ago, so nearly always has the pleasure of being the only one sober at a party. As he reaches towards the door handle, a twinge of annoyance tugs at his side. He'd insisted to Yui recently that she follow his example on the matter.
Nonetheless, he pulls the door aside, expecting to see the familiar face of Yukino's father.
Instead, he sees a pair of rotten, dead fish eyes staring back at him.