Powered by DitDat

Sign up to receive updates!

The Sushi Toss

This story takes place right after Sushi for One? ends.

Rats. She should have sneaked off to the restroom earlier.

“All right, you lovely single ladies, come on up for the bouquet toss.”

Trish Sakai dropped her head to hide behind Aunt Amber’s permed curls, nearly dunking her chin in her rice bowl. Had Uncle Charley seen her? Hopefully he couldn’t see much of anything through his oversized glasses and the glare from his near-bald head.

She peeked around Aunt Amber, risking a quick glance at the front of the large banquet room. The skeletal Master of Ceremonies hovered in his rumpled black tuxedo, so she ducked back before he saw her. Why hadn’t someone stopped him from those last few shots of sake? Then he wouldn’t be so aggressive about the bouquet toss now. He swung his head back and forth, seeking innocent maidens to capture.

Where were her cousins? They’d been sitting with their families. Maybe they could sneak out …

Yeah, right. Only if they crawled on their hands and knees through the round tables.

She couldn’t see them anywhere. She was on her own.

One good thing about Chinese wedding banquets was the large round tables made it possible for her to hide behind an old uncle’s shiny head, or an auntie’s black-dyed beehive hairdo. Trish hunched over her dinner plate, squeezing herself behind Aunt Amber’s large bulk. She stared down at the congealing clams in salty black bean sauce and pretended she hadn’t heard the booming announcement. Maybe she would go unnoticed.

Laughter and chatter spiraled around her in English, Japanese and Mandarin while the rich aroma of beef and broccoli mingled with the sweet-sour tang of Chinese five-spice and strong black pepper. It had smelled so heavenly only a minute ago. Sitting around the table, her parents and a few of her aunties and uncles picked at the last of the deep-fried lobster dumplings and crispy Peking duck.

Surprisingly, no one glanced at her. No one sighed and lamented, “Trish, you’re only getting older. You need to get married.”

She always bit her tongue so she wouldn’t say something like, “Oh, my husband came, but he’s stashed in the car trunk.”

Or, “No, I’ve decided to dedicate my life to finding a cure for cancer.”

Or even better, “What’s the use? I think I’ll join a convent.”

Yeah, that would go over so well. If Trish’s relatives weren’t mentioning her marital status ad nauseum, they were scolding her for not coming to Buddhist temple anymore.

Besides, her Bible reading that week had been on the fruits of the Spirit. Love, patience, kindness, self-control. That meant no glaring, gritting her teeth, rolling her eyes, snapping back, or uncouth behavior in general. Or at least while she sat next to her mother, who would whap her chopsticks on Trish’s knuckles.

A tug at her shoulder. She twisted in her chair and met Jenn’s panicked eyes. Her cousin had dropped to a crouch behind Trish’s chair.

“We have to get out of here,” Trish hissed down to her.

“We can’t leave Lex.” Jenn pointed toward the front, where their other cousin, in her hideous lavender bridesmaid gown, was being prodded toward the front. She looked like Marie Antoinette, about to lose her head—well, except for the crutches. And the sneakers (she wore sneakers instead of her dyed-to-match pumps? Mariko was probably livid). And she seemed to be making an exaggerated amount of noise and bother with the crutches and her knee in her brace.

Trish turned back to Jenn. “All’s fair in love and war.”

“What? This isn’t love—”

“No, it’s war. Against us unmarrieds.”

But Uncle Charley, having changed the diapers of many of the young ladies present, started calling out names. “Missy Fong, come on up to the dance floor. Julie, I see you sneaking off. You too, Ruthie. No, just because you’re dating a guy doesn’t mean you’re exempt.”

Then Aunt Amber shifted her chair and exposed Trish.

“Trish, I see you hiding. You too, Jenn.”

Argh! They were had.

Trish stalled, patting her hair in its French twist and brushing nonexistent crumbs from her lap. Uncle Charley had gone on to other names. He was getting old and just might forget—

“C’mon, Trish. We’re waiting.”

She heaved a long-suffering sigh as she hauled herself to her feet. Her mother hissed, “Smile. Stop looking like a martyr.”

Jenn sighed behind her. “I was hoping he’d forget about us.”

“Where’s Venus? If we have to go up there …”

“I saw her elbow her way out the door.”

“Betrayer!” Trish huffed.

The various cousins in the Sakai family had hit on the clever ploy of holding a little girl during the bouquet toss. Sure, the baby might be three months old, but she was still a single female. Usually, the child reached for the bouquet and eased the social pressure and shame off the older woman. Cousin Sophia captured her niece while cousin Emily snatched baby Marie on her way to the front.

Trish scanned the sea of bobbing black heads for any remaining small ones. No, unless she could convince Uncle Charley that baby Tony had become Antonia, she was outta luck.

With a beauty queen smile on her face she made her way to the dance floor, trailed by Jenn. She focused on the scarlet-satin-covered wall and ornate gold dragon hanging.

While weaving around tables, Trish considered “accidentally” bumping into a waiter removing a half-eaten plate of food, but decided against it. Her mom would insist she stand up there with abalone and black mushrooms dripped from her dress. Trish stepped onto the dance floor.

Uncle Charley’s thick glasses shrank his eyes to twinkling beads. He grabbed her arm in his talon grip and beamed a toothy grin as he propelled her toward the crowd of girls. “Here, right in front. Now you’ll have a better chance.”

Trish closed her eyes and tried not to feel like she was standing up there in her underwear.

A bustle of satin next to her made her open her eyes. No Jenn. Hey, where was she?

There—the little sneak had hidden away toward the outside edges of the crowd of women. Trish aimed a dagger-sharp glare at her.

Jenn mouthed, All’s fair in love and war.

Cousin Mariko, the sadistic young bride, stood at the far end, angelic in her Vera Wang wedding gown and unable to hide a malicious smile. Mariko probably told herself she was upholding tradition, but Trish knew the truth.

It must be something to do with diamonds and the third finger of a woman’s left hand. As soon as she had snagged her engagement ring, Mariko’s brain overheated or fell prey to some virus that caused an inescapable mental disorder. She now felt the driving urge to punish all single young women just as she had been tormented at past weddings.

The bride’s eyes gleamed with maniacal intent. Mariko turned her back on her arch-enemies in a show of power and superiority. Then with a mighty heave, she flung the flowers backward.

Her aim was a bit off. The bouquet ricocheted off the low ceiling and exploded onto the floor in a shower of petals.

“Oh!” Mariko’s mother, Aunt Emi, scuttled forward to pick up the bouquet and survey the damage. Trish prayed for a miracle. Please, Father God, show mercy …

“It’s okay.” Aunt Emi sighed in relief. Trish wanted to scratch her eyes out.

Mariko accepted the ragged flowers with eyes wide and mouth in a small O. Then she giggled. “Did I do that? Oopsie.”

Mariko twisted back around and peeked over her shoulder at Trish with a malevolent gleam in her eyes. Mariko had held the title of oldest single female cousin for seven years, since before Trish graduated from college. For all those years, Mariko wore a brittle smile while aunties and grandmas clucked about her single state, her age, and the sense of responsibility she should have had for her poor, lonely mother, longing for a glimpse of the next generation.

After today, all that humiliation would be turned on the crowd of single cousins, in front of which Trish stood like a bullseye.

Mariko threw the flowers in a flat trajectory, and the bouquet whizzed off to Trish’s right. The women stood frozen like marble statues and followed it with nervous eyes as it landed with a soft whumph just outside the dance floor. Five-year-old cousin Billy darted forward and grabbed it, but his horrified father yelled and smacked Billy’s tiny hand to make him drop the flowers.

Mariko now wore a sour, pinched look as she glared at the women’s innocent expressions. She marched over, snatched up the bouquet, then waddled back to her original standing place. After a pause, she sidled a few steps closer. She performed a cursory half-turn before slinging the bouquet.

It slammed into Trish’s chest and clung to the silky fabric with tenacious fronds and tendrils. She tried to shrink within her dress and her hands flapped at her sides, refusing to touch it. Why wouldn’t it just fall off? A thorn pulled a thread from the silk and the bouquet started to drop to the floor. Then it halted, dangling from her bodice like a fish on a line.

Trish surrendered and embraced her doom.

Applause, cheers all around her. The other girls congratulated her with relief shining from their eyes. Mariko gave her a Judas kiss that left a sticky smudge on Trish’s cheek. Uncle Charley cheered loudest of all, wrapping her in a bony embrace that tried to break her in two.

And then Mom approached with a glorious smile, opened her mouth, and sent her daughter straight into the annals of Most Horrifying Moment history: “Oh honey, you’ve made me so happy. I thought you were doomed never to marry.”

Read more about poor Trish in Only Uni!

© 2008 Camy Tang