Love Letter Lovelies 7: London Lovelies is a sequel to not only the Love Letter Lovelies saga, but to Fiona Five II: Around the World , a story by a fellow FictionPress writer, Sailor Jane. My own story, Mythical Mirage Online, is also mentioned, as well as Junior Lovelies. Since this is a straight up sequel, this is best read having read the other parts. While I did try to keep the story more-or-less self contained, you really shouldn't jump into part seven first.
Also, several of Sailor Jane's characters appear in this story (most notably Jessica Perez and Ayla Zhen). They are her characters, but were used with permission for this story.
All that being said, I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Love Letter Lovelies story.
Love Letter Lovelies 7:
by C.M. Lacey
The sound of her iPhone ring shot across the bedroom of the London flat she was staying in. As it was in the dead of night, and there were no other sounds, the cutesy chiming sounded more like church bells clanging directly in her ear. She jumped in her bed, and sat up quickly, blinking around in a bewildered state. Her eyes hurt from just being awoken, but even though her vision was still blurry she could still tell what it read on her alarm clock. It was 12:57 AM.
"Ugh." She moaned, and rubbed her forehead as her phone rang again. "Okay, okay…" The 23 year old woman complained and picked up her phone.
She winced at the bright light her screen was giving off, and looked at the number. To her shock, it was from a caller she didn't expect to hear from for a long time. Shiho Inoue was calling? Why was her old ex-girlfriend calling her? Without anymore hesitation, Sarah Ito swiped her screen and answered the call.
"Close." Another voice came over from the other end. It was another woman and she was speaking in English. From that one word, Sarah could tell that she wasn't British. That sounded like an American accent.
"Who is this?" Sarah gazed at her rain coat that had been flung over an arm chair the previous day. "How did you get this phone?"
"It was on the night stand next to me." The voice came back.
"It's Jessica Perez. I'm in London right now, and we need to talk."
"Jessica?" Sarah's brain was slowly waking up. "Wait. Aren't you that girl… you're the girlfriend."
"What's going on? Is Shiho-tan okay?"
"There's this little pub called The Coyote? Do you know it? We need to talk in person."
"I'll look it up on G.P.S." Sarah kicked her covers off, and glanced at the clock again. "It's late… are you sure this can't wait?"
"I want to see you now."
"Right." Sarah exhaled and pushed herself to her feet. "I suppose I haven't a choice then. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Jessica just gave an affirmative sound and hung up. Sarah did as well, tossed her phone on the bed, then ran her fingers through her long hair. For Shiho's girlfriend to call her like this in the dead of night must be serious. The last time she had spoken to the woman was about four years ago and it wasn't a pleasant interaction. Something really must be going on if Jessica was calling her up now.
She got dressed rather hastily, only going as far as to comb her hair a few times before she gave up on it and placed it in a long ponytail then stuck a cabby hat on top of it. In the back of her mind, she saw her ex laying in a hospital bed somewhere, or else in some kind of financial trouble that she was too ashamed to talk about. Whatever it was, Sarah felt as if nothing mattered but Shiho's well being. She threw a long coat over her less than stylish outfit, picked up her phone, and was out the door.
The ride to The Coyote was a decent one. From the time Sarah had gotten the call, to her preparing to leave, and the drive, it had taken about an hour to get there. After she paid the cabby, she hopped out of the car, slammed the door, and looked at the outside of the dodgy looking bar. This really was an awful place to have a meeting.
Stepping inside, the clock on the wall signaled that it was 2:09 AM. Sarah hoped that she wasn't too late. Walking in further, she looked around the dimly lit place, thinking the place smelled of vomit and Pledge wood-polisher. She stepped around a drooling man who seemed shocked to see a woman in such a place, and looked around for the tall Latina who had phoned her. Finally, in a small corner smoking a cigarette, was a red-gloved wearing Jessica. Immediately, she rushed pass the old man with leering eyes and made a b-line towards her ex's current girlfriend.
Taking off her coat, Sarah tried to ignore the cigarette smoke that Jessica was blowing in her direction. The woman's eyes were staring her down with so much hatred it was plain to see. However, Sarah knew that if Jessica called her up after all this time, it had to be important. Sitting down, she gauged her hostess in the eye. When she got nothing but more venom-filled glares, Sarah raised her eyebrows in exasperation.
"Well?" Sarah asked, starting to feel slightly aggravated that after all the effort she went through to show up here, that her caller was just sitting there silently. When the American still hadn't said anything, Sarah prompted her further. "Is Shiho okay? I'm assuming you'd only called me over in the dead of night unless there was an emergency."
"Hmm…" The woman finally responded, taking on a strange sort of smirk. "…suddenly you care about her? Interesting."
As if she was putting an exclamation point on her statement, she blew more smoke in Sarah's direction. What was going on? Was Jessica trying to goad her into something? Sarah looked at the near empty pint of beer sitting in front of the Latina and took a wild guess that drinking might have something to do with the mood. If Jessica was drunk, then navigating the waters with her would be difficult.
"Well," Jessica spoke again when Sarah didn't respond. "Shiho's just fine. She's sleeping like a baby in our hotel room."
"Right." Sarah murmured and glanced at the exit. So Jessica was drunk. Apparently she and Shiho were in London, and she decided to have a confrontation while they were here. No doubt Shiho knew nothing about this. Sighing heavily, Sarah wasn't in the mood for this. Her beef with Jessica was four years ago. It figuratively was more ancient history than the old semitic texts she was helping translate back at Oxford. "Well thanks for waking me up to tell me about that."
Standing up, Sarah started to reach for her coat, but Jessica stopped her.
"Your accent's gotten really good. I kinda expected us to be talking in Japanese here."
Her accent? Sarah almost wasn't following. This whole time the two of them had been speaking in English and it hadn't occurred to talk to Jessica in Japanese. It might have been her native tongue, but they were in London and she forgot that Jessica even spoke it.
"I've spoken English all my life, plus I've lived her for the last four years or so. My English is most likely better than your Japanese." Sarah rolled her eyes, and sat back down at the booth they were sitting in.
That little jab didn't sit well with Jessica. Sarah knew it was rude, but she was cranky. Clearly Jessica wasn't done with… whatever this meeting's true intent was. She seemed to be waiting for something. Sarah decided she'd give the girl a few more minutes before she'd leave the woman to her drink.
"I hear you go by Sarah now." Jessica went on, still avoiding the real reason why she called her over to The Coyote. "What? Did you change your identity after we last met?"
That stabbed Sarah in a particularly sensitive place. Despite herself, that insult produced the desired effect Jessica was looking for. Sarah had indeed been using her western name to change herself. When she was Sora Ito from Yumoto, she was a completely different girl. A girl that Sarah Ito would have despised. It took a lot of life lessons and major hardships for Sarah to realized just how terrible of a person she had been. Jessica somehow stumbled on that.
"Did you really wake me up at 2 in the bloody morning to talk about my accent and my name!?"
Pleased with herself, Jessica stirred her mug. "Do you remember what I said to you after our… encounter?"
That stupid bitch. Sarah unconsciously grabbed her hand, a hand that Jessica had nearly tore off four years ago. Did this woman really think that Sarah changed her name because of some fight they had years ago? Did she really have that big of an ego? If so, that was rather pathetic. She called her up years later to gloat over a fight she won? No. There had to be more there. Why was she bringing all this up now?
After some consideration, Sarah recalled that past-Jessica had forced a scared crying Sora to never speak to Shiho again. At the time, she deserved everything she got. Sarah had been using horrible tactics in order to have a small fling with Shiho. When Makoto and Jessica confronted her about it, it resulted in a fight… one that she rightly lost. That fight was one of the many things that triggered Sarah's self-reflection, but not because of the physicality of it. It was because of what she had almost done to a former good friend in Makoto.
"If you're on about Shiho visiting me when I woke up from my coma, that's not on me…" Sarah refocused her mind and got the conversation to the point. If Jessica wasn't pissed off about that, then she had no clue what else it could be. "Mako-chan and Shiho-tan came on their own. I even told them I was fine, but they came anyway… after everything."
"Okay." Jessica seemed to have dropped the coy act now. She crossed her arms and scooted closer. "First off, I don't believe for a second any of that coma bullshit… and yes, I know all about the Mythical Mirage Online cyber terrorist hack."
At the mention of the name, Sarah turned her head. She couldn't look Jessica in the eyes after that. Just the thought of what happened to her caused her body temperature to drop. Jessica, however, noticed none of this. She kept going.
"I know how those people got trapped inside a virtual gaming world. How they fought for their lives for months, praying they would be killed inside the game because if they did they'd die in the real world too. All my friends at school were following it. We even did a thesis on the dangers of Digital Diving and protested Sony for relaunching the game after the hack was over. But see, after you blackmailed me, threatened to go to Kaede's parents with those pictures, and stalked Shiho back in Yumoto, I have a hard time believing that you had any part of the Vanir attack. So I don't fucking buy any of your nonsense, Sora… or Sarah… or whatever the hell your name is."
This girl. How could she be so insensitive? It sounded like she was fully aware of the events that took place during the Mythical Mirage Online hack. She knew that people died in real life because they were killed in the game, or else had to battle for their survival in a dragon infested hell world. How could she possibly think that Sarah would lie about that?
"Don't believe me, huh?" Sarah's voice dropped. Her fingers hurt from the tight fist that she must have been holding.
"You know what… I don't need this in my life." Sarah felt her whole body shake. She stood up and reached for her coat again. She didn't have to sit there and listen to any of this, especially from someone who wasn't even a part of her life.
Smirking, Jessica looked like she won some victory. "Thank you for proving my point, liar."
For some reason, that caused Sarah to pause. Even though she wanted nothing to do with Jessica or reliving those memories, this woman needed to know it wasn't okay to call out Vanir-victims like this. Lately there had been deniers that the incident ever happened. People had taken to harassing ex-MMO players, saying that they either exaggerated what happened, or else made the whole thing up. It originally came from Sony trying to weasel their way out of the countless lawsuits that had been filed, and news sources like The Huffington Post had been printing that garbage. The sad thing was that there was plenty of proof from online footage of what had occurred. People had both experienced the hack first hand, or even seen it online. Jessica had to know the truth, that this wasn't something one could toss aside.
Turning around, Sarah faced Jessica again, slamming her hand on the table. "For the record, my character name was Lady Itora. As in Ito (my last name) and 'ra' for the last two letter of my given name (Sora). I was one of the seven that-" But Jessica still had that smug look on her face. 'Lady Itora' meant nothing to her. "You know what, forget it. I'm trying to defend myself to a drunk."
"Oh no, keep going." Jessica coyly and took a sip from her beer.
"You want proof, I suppose." Sarah couldn't believe she was going this far. She sat back down and took off her hat. "You have a phone on you?"
"Go to YouTube, type 'Lady Itora irl'. It's a BBC video, probably the first you run across."
Finally some doubt flickered in Jessica's eyes. As she looked down and tapped on her smart phone, Sarah looked away. Her whole body quaked. As the volume from the news clip came from the phone, Sarah didn't have to look at Jessica to know her change of attitude. Her breathing gave her away. She saw it. She was looking at footage of a hospital bound Sarah, strapped inside a Njorun Chamber with a comatose body. Her mind was trapped in Mythical Mirage Online's game servers, but her body was thin, white, and sickly thin, hanging like a freakish ornament for the world to gawk at.
The color had drained from Jessica's face. Sarah, without thinking, reached across the table, took Jessica's beer glass, and gulped down some courage. Now the Latina was staring at Sarah in that same way everyone else did when they learned the truth. Part of her wished that she had let Jessica believe the things she had said, but the stronger side of her knew that she couldn't allow another Vanir denier.
"There's… there's footage of my full experience in the game if you still don't believe me… There's whole channels for sick wankers to watch what happened to us."
Jessica swallowed, her eyes still glued to Sarah.
"They took advantage of us. They showed me in the hospital." Sarah's voice cracked. It was hard to keep her composure with the swell of memories that were battling their way to the forefront. She hated thinking about them, and often buried them. Hell, she got some of her degrees by burying herself in endless work. However, no matter how much she tried to forget it, those events in the game stayed with her. "W-When people look at me, that's what they remember. So yes. I hate to break it to you, but it really happened. I wish to God that I was lying, but I'm not."
"I'm not trying to steal Shiho from you, Jessica." Sarah finally was able to look back into the American's eyes. "After what happened… you know she couldn't just have left me alone in that hospital. That's why she visited me."
"Saint Maria, Madre de Dios!" Jessica whispered in spanish again. Her trembling hand reached for the silver crucifix necklace she was wearing, her eyes watering. "Sarah…. I'm…I'm so sorry. I didn't realize."
There was a beat between them where nothing had been said. If Sarah had been her old vindictive self, she would have rubbed Jessica's mistake in her face. But that was Sora, not Sarah. She wasn't like that anymore. Taking a small crooked smile, Sarah breathed in and gave a sympathetic look.
"Yeah, well… I guess I can't fault you. You only know the old me."
"I'm sorry." Jessica apologized meekly.
"You said that already." Sarah started, but was soon smothered with a hug.
"I thought you had read about the cyber attack and just made up a story to get Shiho back-"
"I know…" Sarah patted her back.
Finally pulling away, Jessica eyed Sarah as if she were made of fragile porcelain. Guilt was written all over her now. It was hard to look at. It seemed as if she had so much to say, but was blocked by her own mind. Shaking her head, she gave a sheepish smile.
"Listen, can I - can I buy you a drink? You know, like a little peace offering?"
It was odd how things completely turned around for the two of them. Even though it was late, Sarah wanted to make sure that they had mended things, even if it wasn't likely she'd be meeting Jessica Perez ever again. She had wronged the girl in the past, so sharing a drink or two with this woman was the least she could do. Plus she didn't want to leave Jessica with the impression that she was using her past-experience as a way to make up for the things she had done. She wanted Jessica to know that she had changed for the better.
After they had gotten to know each other, Jessica drove her home. It was obvious that now she felt ashamed for having called Sarah out so late. Once the pulled up to her flat, Sarah opened the door and stepped a foot out. However something else was nagging her. Turning around she faced the Latina girl one last time.
"Jessica? May I ask you something?"
"Why did you think I was trying to steal Shiho after all this time. I mean… I barely talk to her, and her visiting me in the hospital was years ago. Did something happen?"
There was a moment where Jessica considered the question, then she sighed. "I don't know. I just… we're having issues. I'm over in Seattle and she's in Japan. We make time to see each other, but it's only a few times out of the year that I can come in visit. So what am I to think when she's taking a plane to Oxford to see you when she hasn't even flown over to see her actual girlfriend!" She slammed the stirring wheel in frustration and swore. "Dios lo maldiga!"
"Oh." Sarah watched the girl. Even if this happened a long time ago, it seemed Shiho's visit really bothered her. "Sorry, I didn't know about any of that."
Jessica made a sad face. "I know she doesn't have the money to travel, but it still hurts. Still, after what you've been through…."
Sarah didn't know how to respond to that. In truth, she was completely blind to what Jessica might have been going through at the time. When she had awaken from her coma, both Makoto and Shiho had come to visit her in Oxford. It was touching, as she knew the girls couldn't afford it. She learned later that Kaede and Yui chipped in to make it happen, but couldn't afford to fly over themselves.
The thing was that Shiho could only stay a few days, while Makoto was there for the better half of a month. Since she was a nurse-in-training, she stayed until Sarah was well enough to take care of herself. It probably was the most touching thing anyone had done for her. After the way she had treated the girl in the past, Makoto give Sarah her all. When Sarah thought back on those days, it was mainly of Makoto's kindness, not Shiho.
"She wants to see you… since we're in England." Jessica brought Sarah's mind back to the present. "So can we just put everything behind us? Let bygones be bygones?"
After some convincing, Sarah agreed to Jessica's request. She could tell that the American was trying to swallow her pride and apologize at the same time. That was the only reason she agreed to ago along with it. Yes, she was curious to see Shiho again, but she didn't want to fan those old flames. She was sure that everyone left a little part of themselves in ex's and Shiho certainly carried a lot of Sora. She didn't want to see that girl and fall in love with her all over again, but she couldn't say no to Jessica.