The Voiceless Idol’s Perch – VI


She took off into a whirl of cherry blossoms

 

The woman’s eyes were dark.

In the depths of her eyes was a vast nothingness.

The fire flickering in the depths of the void seeped in slowly, torturing her wings…

 

Now she sat at her usual barstool, her hair not in its usual messy braids, but partly pulled back at either side, long, full, and bright.

Wrapped in a stylish pink blouse and a pale blue flared skirt, she was the very picture of a daughter of good family.

A perfect student attending the prestigious Houjou University.

“Well, there you go.” Rikako-san’s almond-shaped eyes widened in surprise. “I knew you were this kinda gal.”

It was two o’clock in the afternoon, a weekday in early spring, when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

In my old, slow, unsophisticated jazz café, this beauty stood out like a sore thumb.

All I could do was laugh.

The darkness clinging to her had vanished, replaced with overflowing, dazzling loveliness.

“Hey, barkeep, why aren’t you looking at her?”
“Oh, sorry, I was just disoriented.”
“Well… Can’t blame you there. She’s gorgeous.”
“Oh, no… No, I’m not. You’re the gorgeous one, Rikako-san.”
“I didn’t ask for fake modesty or flattery, babe.”
“No, I didn’t mean…”
“Whatever! …Wicked girl.”
“So, are things going well? I mean, with…”

Her love life.

“Um, thank you for worrying about me. Yes, he and I have decided to try again with…”

After getting that far, she suddenly trailed off the end of her sentence. Beneath her light makeup, her cheeks were tinged with pink.

“Oh my god, look at her! Blushing like some twenty-year-old girl…”
“I mean, she is.”

Yes, this was her true self.

If she had found happiness, no matter how painful the journey had been to get there, wasn’t that enough?

“And the boy you’re talking about, he’s your ex?”
“Yes. Um… When we were seniors in high school, we dated for a little bit… And, um, then…”

Her eyes darted around. I didn’t know what she’d just remembered, but she was faltering.

“What, did you get into a fight over something stupid before graduation?” Rikako-san asked, grinning.
“Well, um… Yes. Things got cold between us for a long time after that…”

Setsuna laughed.

That was a lie, I was sure.

The darkness I’d seen in her eyes these past three years wasn’t the kind of thing you laughed about while discussing it.

I exchanged a look with Rikako-san.

But Rikako-san put her pointer finger to her lips, careful to keep Setsuna from seeing it.

It was better that I not ask.

“Well, I’m glad to hear it’s worked out.”
“…Yeah.”
“So, can you sing again?”
“Yes. I sang at a Valentine’s Day concert at school, with him playing the guitar. That song brought the two of us together again.”
“Mm-hmmm. So, will you sing while I play the piano?”
“Huh?”
“There’s no one else here. Why not? Barkeep?”
“I don’t mind.”
“What do you feel like singing?”
“How about Miyuki Nakajima’s ‘Bad Girl’?”
“Hey, we’re not at a karaoke bar here.”
“Heehee. Okay, ‘My One and Only Love.’”
“Predictable…”

The two of them moved to the upright piano.

“This key work for you?”
“Lalalalala-lala-la-la… Yes, I think so.”
“Let’s try it, then.”

 

The piano smoothly began.

 

The very thought of you makes my heart sing

Like an April breeze on the wings of spring

And you appear in all your splendor

My one and only love…

 

‘When I think of you, my heart sings

Like a gentle April breeze from the wings of spring

I am enchanted by you

My one and only love

 

‘When dusk falls, filled with mystical charm

In the quiet night, in your arms

Your lips are so warm and sensitive

My one and only love

 

‘When you touch me, I’m in heaven

I’ve never known this before

When you ask me to say that you’re mine

I do, and a blush comes into your cheek

 

‘My heart is driven by desire

And you satisfy it

Every time you kiss me my soul catches fire

I give myself to you, completely

My one and only love’

 

“When did you learn that song, huh?”
“I’ve listened to more than just torch songs here, you know,” Setsuna replied, tilting her head with a charming, impish smile.

 

The way Setsuna sang, it wasn’t jazz.

There was no “Blues feeling” in it.

It wasn’t my preferred style of singing.

It was too sugary.

And yet…

 

I couldn’t help being captivated by that voice.

It was overflowing with the joy of a woman who had united with the man she loved.

But now and then there was something downcast in her face, carrying the weight of all the time she had spent crying.

The strength that had allowed her to carry on and break through, even as she feared the deep darkness, adding a faint color behind the gleaming light.

 

The women throughout history who had sung torch songs…

All of them wanted to be happy.

I’m sure Billie Holiday herself never wanted to be the kind of woman who fit into a torch song.

All of those women wanted to find happiness.

 

“Phew. Well, that’s it for me. This is my ‘sweet surrender.’” Having finished playing, Rikako-san looked up at Setsuna. “You’ve seriously never studied formally?”
“Nope.”
“Your vocal quality, your sense of pitch, the strength of your throat… They’re all considerable. If this is something you were born with, you should thank your parents. Also, whoever taught you was excellent.”
“She’s… my best friend, I’m proud to say.”
“Hey, once you get a little more experience, you could make some money singing. Why not join up with me?”
“I have to do some job-hunting…”
“Aww, come on. You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to do some kind of work related to music.”
“Well, then why don’t you fudge your age a bit and go for being an idol? I mean, an idol who can sing jazz standards in fluent English? That’d be pretty cool.”
“No, no, I mean I want to work on the support side of things.”
“That’s such a waste, though…”
“I appreciate the sentiment. I do plan to keep singing, though. I’ve actually been considering doing some voice training.”
“Seriously?”
“Seriously.”
“Well, come and watch me play now and then, yeah? And, if we can ever get our schedules to line up, maybe we can play a show together sometime. Sound good to you?”
“Yes. I look forward to it.”

 

After conversing for a further short while, Setsuna left the café.

She opened the door, and stood for a moment on the other side of the thick, soundproof glass.

And, whether or not she knew that we were watching her, she turned back to the door and bowed deeply. Then, she turned gracefully around and departed.

 

“…She seems like she might finally end up happy. I’m glad for her.” Rikako-san lit up a Marlboro menthol.
“Yeah.” I set an ashtray in front of me.
“She might not be coming back.”
“You might be right.”
“…”
“It’s better that way, though.”
“Why?”
“That barstool was a perch for her. She was a voiceless canary, and she remembered how to sing. It’s time for her to fly again. I can’t keep her here.”
“Barkeep, what are you talking about? Canaries that sing are kept in cages.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so.”
“Stupid.”
“I guess that means she got away, then… I’ll miss her.”
“Hmph. I’ll just go on the attack with texts. I’ll get her to play a show with me.”
“Are you serious?”
“Not in a little box of a place like this. A nice big venue…”
“Hang on. If you’re gonna play, do it here.”
“No thanks. Actually, if you’ll let me tell her, ‘Oh, the barkeep misses you, he came crying to me begging for you to come back,’ maybe we’ll play here.”
“Rikako-san…”
“Hey, don’t get depressed. I’ll comfort you. I like you, y’know.”
“Huh?”
“I mean it. I like this worn-out perch.”

With her full lips, she threw me a kiss. And a wink.

 

If anything ever happened to make Setsuna sad again, if her wings were to get hurt and she needed somewhere to rest, she could come and do it here. I would welcome her without a word.

And I prayed to the goddess of music, and to Billie Holiday in heaven, that that time would never come.

 

(End)


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