I make jam, to pass the time.
He said he likes strawberry, it reminds him of his Mother. I thought he never knew his Mother, perhaps Usui was wrong. My thoughts no longer linger on him, nor on Sakura, or the girls at Maid Latte, or Shintaki - Shintani? I forget their names these days.
Blueberries. There are blueberries in the meadow.
Tora is the head of the Igarashi Conglomerate now. My husband, Mr Igarashi. I tend not to think of how I ended up at his side, of the day I travelled to Miyabigaoka to refuse the offer he made me. I never got to voice my denial, not before he forced himself on me. Looking back, it seems laughable that I would fall for his facade. The past is unimportant, my place is here now, with Tora. After that day in his office he told me that if I told anyone what had happened he would ruin my family, inflict unrepeatable things unto my friends - the sibilant rasp next to my ear is a memory I do not think I will ever forget, as much as I might try. Life would be more pleasant if I could completely silence the last flicker of rage that burned in the back of my mind, but it seemingly will not be snuffed out. As a distraction, I spend most of my days reading books, practicing scales on the piano, watching his movements carefully, making jam. He likes jam, he says it keeps us sweet.
Raspberry. But I must strain the pips. He hates pips.
The second time I had sex with Tora I wanted to be sick. Of course, if it had been anyone else with his looks, I would have been pleased - but it wasn't. It was still him, still Igarashi. Still a mad, vicious man, clothed in handsome skin. When he pushed into me, I could barely believe what was happening. How much it hurt - both physically and otherwise. It tore, burnt. I convinced myself this was for the best, but I wanted to scream for my Mother.
Lemon curd. Tart, sour.
I was sick on our wedding night. He seemed so grossly happy - he didn't deserve to be happy. As he pressed me into the wall, smoothing his long fingers up my thigh, I noticed the other hand, the one that rested next to my head. On one finger, our wedding ring. On another, an Igarashi family heirloom. The large amber stone glinted in the dim light of our suite. He was never one to hide his wealth. Tora took his time exploring my body and I felt the hard, cool stone brush my skin a number of times.
"My Misaki, all mine," he whispered, lips ghosting over my ear as he brought me closer and closer to orgasm.
When his fingers roughly twisted inside of me, I felt the ring press softly against my clit. It was smooth, unexpectedly so. I thought it would be as rough and jagged as man who wore it. Its cool touch sent me over the edge and I came messily onto his hand. After he had fucked me, against the wall and Tora had fallen asleep in our king sized bed, I ran to the bathroom, locked the door and hurled my guts into the toilet. Tora never plays nice, he always fucks like he's trying to hurt me.
He comes home from work, to our enormous penthouse, at six o'clock. Ever punctual, he arrives exactly at six. At six, I know to be ready. The days are easy to handle, I am alone for the most part, and I can lose myself in the small study-cum-library at the back of the house, or spend hours surfing the internet. I don't have to think about, or see, Tora Igarashi - I even turn our wedding picture over so I don't have to see his vicious, possessive smirk whilst I am alone. But when it strikes five, preparations must begin. Place all the pictures back in their right space. Dress in something nice. Cook dinner. Wait by the door, glass of red wine in hand, for him.
Tora always smiles when he sees me, it puts me on edge. Perhaps tonight he'll get bored of me. Perhaps tonight he'll kill me.
But, each day passes and nothing happens. Three years passed and nothing happened. He is never bored. He eats, retires to his study for a number of hours to look over business deals, then comes into the living room to let me know that it is time. The rest of the evening is spent pandering to his less than savory desires. Moons ago, I protested, I fought. But I am too tired for revolution, my bones cannot take any more breaks. I learned my lesson. I no longer feel sickened by him, everything has gone numb. Everything is so routine, I almost wish for the worst, just to break the monotony.
"What are you doing home?" I asked, looking up from my position, curled up on the leather armchair in his study. He shouldn't be here. I shouldn't be in his study.
"I got the day off. People of my level can do that, Misaki," he said, sternly. He entered the study and placed his briefcase down on the table. Slowly, he began to take his jacket off.
"Of course, sorry. I'll go make some lunch," I said, getting to my feet to head to the kitchen. He moved his hand to his neck to loosen his tie.
As I breezed past him, I felt one of his hands clench around my upper arm. Immediately, my heart dropped into my stomach. He swiftly turned me to face him and pushed us backwards, so my backside rested against his desk. The gaze he fixed me with was intense, his amber eyes glinted. I wondered if they were as smooth as the stone in his ring.
"I came home today to spend some time with you, my Misa. We haven't seen much of each other these past weeks. I've been so busy," he said, placing a finger beneath my ear and dragging it slowly down to my chin. He tapped underneath, forcing my head up. I hate it when he calls me 'Misa', that is not his nickname to use. It belongs to a far better man than him. "Look at me."
"H-how nice you came home to see me. Thank you, Tora," I stammered, still trying to avert my eyes away. A sharp crack rings out and suddenly I see stars. One cheek bursts with pain and I come to realise that he has slapped me.
"Look at me when I'm speaking to you," he snapped, grasping one hand around my neck, applying just enough pressure to send me into a panic.
"P-please-" I managed to gasp, throwing my hands into his chest, trying to push him away. When I finally swiveled my head to look at him, he released me and went back to gently stroking my hair.
"Good girl. Now get upstairs and take your clothes off. I've got some things I've been wanting to try."
Honey, fresh from the hive at the bottom of the garden. They take Acacia, I think.
Tora had his sleeves rolled up past his elbows, I could see in the mirror. The first thing he wanted to try was rope. He'd laced my arms together behind my back, forced my head into the duvet, so my backside stuck in the air. The second thing was pain. The belt slid out of his trousers with a whistle and landed with a crack. The last thing was desperation. He kept me on the edge of orgasm for what felt like hours, until I was begging.
Begging, "Tora, please, please, let me, please, Tora."
Fig and ginger jam. Spicy, with a rich crunch from the figs.
He started taking more days off after that first afternoon and things got progressively worse. My bottom and back were red raw most days, I could barely sit, and my legs were constantly worn out from the previous evening. My hands trembled from exhaustion and nerves as I made the dinner, often I tripped and fell on the way to serve up - giving him further excuse to thrash me.
I hate him. I dream of violence. He seemed to know he was breaking me down, I caught him smirking at me when he thought I wasn't looking.
But I have to continue. I must bear his hatred to keep order - surely this is the only option?
The girl gazing back in the mirror doesn't look like me. Her hair is matted, her face littered with bruises and grazes. Her eyes look hollow, dead. This girl is no President. I looked down at my hands and clenched them tightly into fists, squeezing out the thought that had been recurring in my head. No, I am not a murderer.
Each day I dream of taking the knife from the jam jar and stabbing it into his neck. Plunging it over and over into his beautiful face, plucking out those amber eyes and slicing off that snide, evil tongue. I want him dead, I want his blood on my ski-
My hands unclenched as I felt two others run over my shoulders softly. I looked up to see Tora standing behind me, dark eyes gazing over at me, lips kissing the back of my neck. A shiver ran up my spine and he chuckled.
"Come back to bed, my Misa."
He stilled his soft touches and gripped my upper arms tightly. He leant back into the area of skin he had been kissing and suddenly bit down as hard as he could. I screamed, pushing him backwards and whirling to face him.
"I've had enough!" I shouted, slamming my fist into the wall.
He smiled back at me and my blood dripped down his chin. One of his hands wiped over his mouth and then dropped to his side. He lurched forward. The recurring thought got louder.
Tora sat across from me at the dining table, watching vacantly as I crunched down upon the piece of toast in my hand. Sticky crimson splattered down my chin.
"That was the nicest jam of the lot. Very sweet," I laughed, lifting my cup to my lips. The tea was burning hot and had a rich, herbal odor that overpowered the strange stench in the room. I smiled and lowered the cup of tea back into the saucer on the table. "Don't you think, Tora?"
We stared silently at each other for a moment. The amber ring shone delicately from the finger next to my wedding ring. Alone, I walked into the bedroom and leaned against the doorframe. There was still a lot to clean up, this wouldn't do. He never liked mess. A scream threatened to burst from my chest, but I kept it in. It would do no good to scream now. I turned back and looked at the dead man propped up in the dining chair.