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That said, please enjoy the blurb and excerpt below!
For over twenty years Reina has sexually celebrated the women around her with a reverence only tolerated by her wife, Aiko. But when Reina misinterprets the fluidity of their open relationship, she’s backed into a corner where her gender dysphoria reigns supreme. In order to salvage her marriage, she may have to reanalyze the way she views the world, her life, and her experiences.
Just when she thinks she’s figured her spouse out, Aiko faces an unexpected transgression. Can she forgive her? Or will love finally give way to the fatigue that accompanies being with someone like Reina? A sick mother and unsympathetic sister are not helping Aiko’s dilemma.
Even the most passionate relationships sometimes fall asunder to “seikou,” the sexual character at the core of one’s identity. Will Reina and Aiko reunite with stronger hearts, or is it finally time to go their separate ways? And if they do split up, who will help them pick up the pieces – the stoic therapist, the desperate socialite, or the young couple who initiated this mess to begin with?
“We’re going to try an exercise,” Dr. Katou announced, her legs crossed once more. “Its goal is to help you two better understand how you see each other.”
This’ll be grand.
“Reina, let’s begin with you. Please select one word that you think best describes your wife.”
A word? Just a word? While Reina was a champion of brevity, she could hardly sum up everything that was “Aiko Takeuchi” into one measly word. Reina’s vocabulary wasn’t that fantastic. How was she supposed to describe her own precious wife, the one she had so apparently wronged, with one word? What would she focus on? Her beauty, despite its aging? Her homemaking prowess? Her sweetness? Her trademark naiveté that had gradually chipped away over the years, the more Reina influenced her?
“I guess it would be arasagashi.”
Aiko gasped, and Dr. Katou “hmmmed” like she always did when things were about to get interesting. “Arasagashi?” Aiko repeated. “Is that so? You think I am so picky?”
“Un.” She hadn’t been in the early years of their relationship, but Reina gauged Aiko’s habit of picking out every fault in her partner began around the time they moved in together and she adopted the occupation of homemaker. The day that happened was the same day Aiko went from a fun and curious girl to a ranting woman, as if she were determined to become the stereotypical housewife who constantly treated her husband like a careless child. But like her diminishing naiveté, it too had been gradual, enough for Reina to ignore it while continuing to enjoy the things she loved most about Aiko.
She was halfway through spitting out a testy response when Dr. Katou cut her off. “And how about you? What one word would you use to describe your partner?”
Reina should have seen it coming from beyond the Japanese Alps, from the way Aiko’s jaw set with a determined, slightly arasagashi-like stance. She should have seen it coming, but she didn’t.
Without context, Reina had no idea how to take that word. Seikou in itself had seemingly endless definitions. She had half a mind to ask Aiko to write it down in Japanese kanji so she could see the intended version.
“Seikou, eh? So I’m a steel manufacturer?”
No surprise when Aiko didn’t laugh at that joke.
“Am I a big success?”
“You know which one I mean.”
I know. Reina could see the layers written in the lines of Aiko’s face. Denial kept them at bay. If Reina faced the true meanings Aiko intended, then she had to confront the same accusation she had flung in her wife’s face one week before. I’ve always known.
“Your character is rotten. Rotten with sex.”
Oh, not one meaning, but two! And how they intertwined was so affronting that Reina leaped up in sheer shock. “Seikou, is it?” she snapped. “If you knew my character was so consumed with sex, then why did you get into a relationship with me, huh?”
“How could I have known?” Aiko retained her nonplussed demeanor, that same evil one turning Reina’s life upside-down. “How does an inexperienced girl recognize that sort of sordid character consumed with sex? It’s not normal. You should never choose other women over me!”
“Choose women… over you… seikou! Shinjiran!” Reina paced back and forth even after Dr. Katou gently suggested she sit down again. “I don’t believe it! It’s like I told you last week. You’ve been trying to change me over all this time!”
“I have done no such thing!”
“But don’t you wish you could? Don’t you wish you could make me normal?” Reina glowered above her wife. “It’s bad enough your oversexed spouse can’t keep her legs closed, right? She’s also got a whole box of other problems, all the way down to her inability to have sex like a woman!”
“Don’t deny it! You want me to fit into your heteronormative dreams! You got your marriage, and now you want…” Reina choked and stepped back. All her gender-infused demons came crawling up her legs and took root in her stomach, and there was Aiko gawking at her in horror. She hates me. Reina stumbled over her empty chair. I’m a monster. She couldn’t breathe. I’m neither man nor woman. “You want me to die inside just to fit your mold.”
Reina collapsed into her chair and held her head between her hands, forcing back the sobs wanting to burst out and humiliate her. The demons inside her taunted her identity as neither man nor woman, their cackles drowning out the sounds of Aiko’s panicked declarations of love happening a meter away.
“No, Reina, no!” Aiko grabbed a shaking hand and parted drooping hair. “I would never! I would never change you! I don’t care about your libido, or our lifestyle!” Chairs screeched backwards as Aiko shoved out of her seat. “I only want you to keep your promise to me!”
Her kisses were warm and wet on Reina’s face, but it wasn’t enough. Not when she now knew her wife’s summation of her. Seikou. Everything wrapped in the core of Reina’s identity, from her carefree attitude to the way she tended to women around her – those beautiful, loving women – was a divide between them. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Ai-chan. Reina didn’t want to feel the affection showered upon her. So why are you hurting me?