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Unlike dinner time the first meal of the day usually had the young women eating amongst themselves and chatting it up, but on this particular morning not a single word was uttered between them as they sat around the table eating their breakfast in stunned silence, silverware lightly touching plates being the only sound in the solemn dining room. That is until Mr. Fujimoto entered, followed by Meg and another Japanese woman.
‘Mimi-chan suffered from an unfortunate accident last night,’ he said addressing the four of them. ‘We have just learned from her former orphanage that she sometimes experienced cases of sleepwalking.’ He gestured to the woman at his side. ‘We have acquired the services of a grief counselor, so please feel free to speak to her during this difficult time.’
‘Will there be a funeral for Mimi?’ Rhani asked.
‘We have discovered that she has a living relative. An aunt who prefers to keep the matter private.’ And with that Mr. Fujimoto simply turned and left.
‘Dr. Takamatsu will be arriving in twenty minutes for your weekly examinations,’ Meg added before leaving the room as well.
So that’s how they were choosing to deal with this awful happening. Very matter-of-factly, as if it were something to get over by the end of breakfast.
Unified in their silent protest on the handling of such the young women took one look at the grief counselor before them then went back to eating, ignoring her for the rest of the meal.
Despite the efforts of all Fujimoto’s staff, the maids, butlers, gardeners and so on could not lift the mournful atmosphere, the morning hours ticking by in stillness compared to the running around and giggling that was normally done around this time. Rhani, Josephine and Vicki had all retreated back to their rooms, while Elsa, seated in the study room with her new assignment, found it hard to concentrate.
By lunch time she conceded that the day was not going to be as productive as she would have liked, deciding to join the others in the dining room for another quiet meal. But before it came to an end they would be left stunned yet again, Meg entering the room with a young Japanese girl around Mimi’s age.
‘Ladies, I want you to meet the newest member of our Fujimoto family, Noboo. Noboo, this is Elsa, Rhani, Vicki and Josephine.‘
They were all caught off guard but managed to politely greet the new recruit as Meg continued the introduction. ‘Noboo comes from an orphanage in Noda City. After high school she wishes to become involved in International Relations.’
Going from unsure to uncomfortable, the girls didn’t know how to react. ‘Come now, Noboo. I’ll show you to your room,’ Meg said as she guided the bright-eyed girl away, turning back to the group long enough to inform them of their day’s schedule. ‘We will be hosting a dinner party tonight. A lot of important people are expected to attend. So ladies, when we take Noboo out for her initiation this afternoon be prepared to shop.’
Nobody said anything, but didn’t have to to know they were all collectively thinking the same thing…
How could they replace Mimi so soon? And with someone so similar?
From the department store to the beauty salon the routine to make the new girl feel special went on as usual, wrapping the day of planned fun up with a walk through the park.
While waiting for the others outside a restroom Noboo saw an ice cream stand across the street and opened her purse with the intention to go buy a scoop. ‘Oh, they have the best ice cream,’ she said to Elsa. ‘Would you like one?’
What a déjà vu moment for Elsa, who was quick to want to save the new girl from the side of Meg she was hoping never to see again. ‘Maybe we should wait for the others.’
And so they did, giving Elsa a few moments to not only reflect on the tragedy of last night but also the sense that Meg’s sometimes cold ways was a hint to something even more awful than a harsh scolding.
With the fall of evening came the showmanship Mr. Fujimoto was known for, the extravagant mansion lit up to awe as a live orchestra played to the delight of the aristocratic guests he mingled with, with Meg ever the perfect assistant standing by his side.
And like prized showpieces his five younger assistants were spread throughout the party as ideal representations of his admired empire. From Vicki, elegantly dressed and hobnobbing with a lady of influence…
‘Yes, I’ve been with The Fujimoto Corporation for nine months now. It’s been a pleasure.’
…To Josephine, looking as though she came from Russian royalty, conversing with a power couple.
Beautiful Rhani and Noboo were stationed by a buffet table, taking their few moments between approaching guests to sneak a piece of shrimp or two.
By a large fireplace, Elsa, ever so ravishing, was alone no longer than a minute before a handsome Japanese gentleman approached her with two glasses of champagne, handing her over one. ‘May I offer you some champagne?’
But before she could take the glass from his hand a server approached with a glass of juice on a serving tray. Suddenly reminded of the rules she took the non-alcoholic beverage instead.
‘I’m sorry,’ the gentlemen said. ‘You don’t drink?’
‘No,’ Elsa somewhat awkwardly replied, feeling a little embarrassed for having been treated like a child by the server.
‘My apologies. Are you with The Fujimoto Corporation?’
‘Yes, I assist Mr. Fujimoto in business matters.’
The gentleman was obviously smitten and put out his hand so that he might take hers. ‘Masaaki Matsumoto. Nice to meet you.’
As expected she offered her hand in response, blushing a bit when he took it, lifted it to his lips and placed a gentle fairytale kiss atop it.
‘Yes. Are you with The Fujimoto Corporation as well?’
‘No, but my family has been doing business with Mr. Fujimoto for over twenty years.’
Before their conversation could go any further Meg approached,
‘Please excuse me, Mr. Matsumoto. Elsa, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.’
She started to guide Elsa away.
‘It was nice to meet you, Mr. Matsumoto.’
‘The pleasure was all mine, Ms. Velasquez,’ he said as he bowed to her. She tried to give a little bow of the head back, but Meg already had her going off in another direction.
She was being taken over to the other four girls, who were all gathered around an elderly Japanese woman. ‘And this is our girl from the Philippines,’ Meg shared with the woman. ‘Elsa, this is Mrs. Fujimoto, Mr. Fujimoto’s mother.’
Elsa bowed. ‘It’s wonderful to meet you. Your son’s a very gracious man.’
Elsa bowed again, but the old woman took her hand into hers, looking at it, caressing its softness before looking back up to Elsa’s face. ‘Ah, so beautiful. Will make beautiful babies.’
Elsa, not knowing where that came from, could only politely smile at the old woman’s compliment.
Meg had one more event scheduled for the girls before they were to call it a day, which is why she had them leave the party early. In an attempt to help Rhani, Vicki, Josephine and Elsa bond with their new associate she had arranged a movie night, and by the looks of it it was working, all five girls cuddled up on Rhani’s bed eating popcorn in their silk pajamas while watching a romantic comedy.
The rating couldn’t have been more than PG-13, and with the story coming to a climax, with the two main characters having found one another and about to embrace in a passionate kiss Rhani joked, ‘Looks like Elsa and the gentleman from earlier this evening.’
‘Wooo…’ they all chimed in before giggling up a storm. Elsa’s mouth fell agape in surprise.
‘You didn’t think we missed that, did you?’ Vicki added.
‘Yeah,’ Josephine went on. ‘We saw how he was looking at you!’
Noboo was the next to get one in. ‘You should have asked for his number.’ Once again the girls rang out in unison. ‘Wooo…!’
‘It wasn’t like that,’ Elsa playfully protested. ‘He was just being nice.’
‘You didn’t see what we saw,’ Rhani countered.
‘Come on, you know he was cute!’
‘Yeah, but maybe I’m interested in someone else.’ For once the girls laid in stillness, puzzled.
‘Someone else at the party?’ Josephine asked.
‘Nope.’ Elsa knew she was toying with them and she liked it.
‘Who else could there be?’ Vicki asked. ‘A gardener? A butler?’
‘Dr. Takamatsu?’ Rhani joked.
‘Eww!’ they all said together, obviously repulsed by the thought.
‘Unless…’ Josephine had a guess of her own. ‘Could it be Mr. Big and buff?
The one who went back to the Philippines with you?’
Nothing more needed to be said, as the blush on Elsa’s face said it all.
Elsa took her pillow and softly hit Josephine with it who in turn hit her back. She then went for Noboo, and before long Vicki and Rhani were drawn into it as well, with it soon becoming an all-out pillow fight.
The next day and things were already returning back to normal, with four playful girls running about the mansion while Elsa did her work in the study.
She found it odd that none of them ever actually seemed to work, but wouldn’t dream of asking about it and possibly causing conflict. Besides, she was grateful for the opportunity she had been given and enjoyed the work she had been assigned.
Around mid-afternoon something in the file she had been working on caught her eye. Double checking, triple checking, she only grew more and more confused.
The large front door of the mansion was open, a maid signing for a beautiful arrangement of flowers. As she turned to bring them into the house Meg approached, with the maid handing the bouquet over to her.
Without having to be told what to do next the help took a vase from a nearby table and left for the kitchen. Meg took out the small card nestled in the flowers.
I enjoyed meeting you last night. Perhaps we can talk more over dinner. My contact information follows.
Upon reading it Meg tore the card up and placed its pieces into her pocket just as the maid returned with the vase of water. The woman then left her to attend to other duties, Meg evening out the flowers and centering the vase as Elsa now approached.
‘Nice flowers,’ Elsa commented.
‘Yes, they are.’
‘I found something in one of the files that I can’t seem to figure out.’
‘Let’s have a look.’
Five minutes later and Elsa had Meg and Mr. Fujimoto’s full attention, both at her back as she sat in front of the computer screen.
‘You see, in this account, which doesn’t seem to exist in any of the other files the funds seem to consistently increase every few days. And the only data as to where the funds are coming from, and what they are being used for are encrypted.’
Meg and Mr. Fujimoto looked at each other then back to Elsa as she turned around to them.
‘Once again you have proven your excellence in this manner,’ Mr. Fujimoto said with a slight bow of the head. ‘I’ll have our accountant look into it at once. Now, why don’t you take some well-deserved time off and go relax with the others. Perhaps we can schedule something special for you ladies this weekend. We will have another assignment for you upon your return.’
Elsa smiled as she stood to her feet. She wanted to say she was just getting warmed up and preferred to keep working, but the last thing she wanted to do was sound ungrateful towards Mr. Fujimoto’s kind gesture and so she followed her boss’s suggestion and took her leave.
Once Elsa had left the study Mr. Fujimoto turned back to Meg and in their native tongue asked, ‘Do you think she’s ready?’
Chapter 6 posted shortly.