A Taste for Christmas Cake Chapter 1

Chapter 1: A Taste for Christmas Cake Chapter 1
  • Chapter 1: A Taste for Christmas Cake Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2: A Taste for Christmas Cake Chapter 2
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Note: ‘Christmas cake’ is a slang term in Japan referring to a woman over 25 and still unmarried. The idea is that, like Christmas cake leftover after Christmas day, a woman older than that has already passed her use-by date and is supposed to be no longer attractive.

Chapter 1: The Izakaya

“Everyone, here’s to another successful year for Eastport Corporation! Thank you for all your hard work. Kampai!”

I was bringing the foaming head of that long-awaited first jockey of Asahi Super Dry to my lips when my phone vibrated in my jacket pocket. Sighing, I replaced my beer on the table and started fumbling around for my phone.

“What’s the matter, Mi-chan?” asked my fellow executive Hideyuki sitting next to me. His dark eyes narrowed and his lips curled into a teasing smile. “Jealous boyfriend checking up on you?”

I glanced at the number. “Oh no,” I muttered. “It’s the office.”

“Oh, right, you’re on call tonight. That’s too bad.” Hideyuki returned to his beer as I got up and removed myself from the noise of the booth. It was our end-of-year party and I’d been looking forward to it for a long time. The party was much later than most other Japanese companies’, since we have a lot of foreigners at our office, and this year it happened to fall on Christmas eve. That had annoyed a few people, since Christmas Eve is usually a time for couples to enjoy a romantic date, but the executive had allowed people to bring partners to avoid any bad blood.

I’d come alone, of course. That moron Hideyuki had already forgotten that I was still recovering from a bad break up with my boyfriend of three years. It was the reason I was on call tonight: being single, I’d volunteered to do it.

Now I was regretting my selflessness. I took the call and talked to Naomi at front office. One of our foreign teachers had got himself into trouble.

“What is it this time?” I muttered. An incident late on Christmas Eve could be any number of things: an altercation over an unpaid bill at an izakaya or karaoke, an irate taxi driver with a vomit-stained cab or, worse still, a furious parent of a student found going out with one of our teachers. It was against our company policy, of course, but happened all the time regardless.

It wasn’t any of those things. The guy was just lost.

“He says he’s wandering around paddy fields at the moment,” Naomi told me. “I’ll send you his number.”

“Who is it?”

I recognised the name. I was surprised. He hadn’t shown up on my radar as someone who was likely to cause us trouble. Usually, those individuals outed themselves during orientation. This guy, well: he’d seemed extremely normal. A little shy, maybe, and with almost non-existent Japanese, but sensible enough.

“Where was the last place he recognised?”

Minami-Arakawa. I groaned. It was miles away, on the Toudama line. I’d take me forty minutes to get there. I’d have to find him pretty quickly after that or we’d miss the last train.

I thanked Naomi and hung up then rang the kid. He was extremely apologetic but I quickly cut him off and told him to stay put. I told him to access the map app on his smartphone and try and find out where he was. He called back telling me that everything was in kanji and he couldn’t read any of it.

I sighed. Of course it was. I told him to find the closest train station and make for it. The sign would have the name of the station in English characters on it. I was going to jump on a train and be with him soon.

He thanked me again and hung up. His voice had sounded fragile, like he was very upset, and slurred, as if he’d been drinking. I knew something must have happened to him. That sort of thing happens a lot on Christmas Eve. At least my fiancé - wait, no, my ex-fiancé - had had the good manners to break up with me last month.

I excused myself from the party with a rapid-fire set of bows and wished everyone a Merry Christmas. Then I slipped on my shoes at the entrance to the izakaya and ran for the station.

Things were going to be tight.

I was on a rapid when I felt my phone vibrate. I struggled to pull my phone out with my fellow commuters bunched around me like sardines. It was a message from the kid.

“I’m at Naka-Shimazawa.”

It was a small station, next to Minami-Arakawa. I got off the express and changed for a local at Musashi-Shimazawa. It was the next station after.

The train was pretty full, but not quite as full as the rapid had been. Apart from the omnipresent salary-men there were a few couples on their way back from dates. I ignored the hand-holding and the heads on shoulders and stared down at my phone.

It wasn’t long before the train pulled in at the station. Only a few people got off. Naka-Shimazawa was in the middle of nowhere. I scanned my pasmo card and came out of the station. He was standing there waiting for me.

He was scanning the faces of the people coming through the ticket gates and when he spotted me he smiled with a mixture of relief and embarrassment. He hurried over and bowed, badly, apologising for having dragged me out here.

I was annoyed but maintained my professional demeanour and told him not to concern himself about it. There was also the fact that his eyes were red. He’d been crying. Something sprung up in me then, a maternal, protective feeling, but also empathy. I knew what must have happened. Being broken up with is never fun. It doesn’t get any easier, either.

Even though he looked much younger, I knew from his profile that he was 21. When you’re that age, a break-up feels like the end of the world.

The concrete shuddered. A train was about to arrive.

“Come on,” I said. “That’s the last express back into the city.”

We hurried through the ticket gates and up the stairs. The platform was strangely deserted. The train approached. It was coming very fast.

The train flew straight past us and didn’t stop. I pushed away the black hair that had flown across my face. Why hadn’t it stopped?”


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Written by taiyakisoba
Hochgeladen August 16, 2020
Notes A virginal foreign English teacher working in Japan is seduced by his older, Japanese female manager.
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