David McCrimmon lay lazing on the cool grass under the tallest tree on campus. He was propped up on his elbows, so as to be better able to look around at the “scenery”, pretty girls wearing short skirts to match the season of early April in Brisbane. David had, up until three years ago, been accustomed to the cool summers of the Scottish coast, and had vowed upon his arrival in Australia to enjoy every second of summer, heat strokes and all.
His eyes followed the bottom of a very properly dressed Asian girl who rushed by, lecture notes in hand. Law-student, perhaps? She was rather short; approximately 5’1”, he guessed. She wore her dark hair down to her chin, and it parted neatly to reveal the nape of her pale neck, since she kept her head down. Then she disappeared around the corner, and a group of tanned, summer-blonde “sheilas” caught David’s attention instead. Behind them, a young man wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops appeared, heading down the footpath in the direction of David’s tree.
“Well, aren’t you just the handsome fellow!” David said as soon as he was within earshot.
Peter Donohue purposefully ignored the comment and plopped down in the grass next to him. He got two sandwiches out of his bag and handed one to David. “How you doing, Dave?” he asked cheerfully.
“Oh, cannae complain, me,” David replied. “Nice day. Nice scenery.”
“Bloody true, that!”
Pete had some aborigine in him. He was always tanned, but this time of year he was golden. Foreign concept, this “tanning”. David just got freckles in the summertime.
He took a bite of his sandwich and glanced over at Pete, who was going through some papers, which he had presumably received at his lecture.
“What kind of a name is Yuko Akai?” Pete asked suddenly.
“Hm… I’d say it’s probably Japanese,” David replied.
“How d’you know?”
“Just sounds like it.”
Pete nodded thoughtfully. “Makes sense, I guess.”
David took another bite out of his sandwich. “So, who is this Yuko Akai, then?” he asked after he had finished chewing.
“She’s in my Master class.” Peter absentmindedly thumbed through some more papers before putting it all into a folder.
“A marine biologist, then. Is she pretty?”
“She’s Asian, mate. How can you tell?”
“Fair enough.” David finished his sandwich. Then, “What does she look like?”
Pete looked thoughtful for a second. Then he answered, “Short. Hell, she’s tiny! About a foot shorter than you. Slim. Long legs. Wears glasses. And she dresses a lot more conservatively than most girls here. You’d think she was a law student, really.”
David smiled. “I think I’ve seen her.”
Yuko entered the banquet hall that afternoon a few minutes past five, and began to find her way to her seat. She had been placed at a table a few feet away from the stage, upon which stood a grand piano. Seated behind it was a man in a tux, playing comfortable jazz tunes.
She sat down. The seat to her right was empty, but one seat over sat a woman around the same age as her. She was blonde, with soft, green eyes and wore a short and elegant black dress and stiletto heels. When Yuko sat down, the woman smiled at her and said:
“Hello! My name is Phaedra Charring.”
Yuko, a bit embarrassed about her own attire, a simple knee-length grey dress and flat, sensible shoes, shook her hand and introduced herself. “Yuko Akai.”
“That’s Japanese, isn’t it?” Phaedra Charring asked her.
“Yes,” Yuko replied. “I live in Hokkaido.”
“Really? That’s so exciting! I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, but haven’t got round to it… So, what do you do, Yuko?”
“I work at an aquarium at present,” Yuko divulged. “I’m a doctor in Marine Biology.”
“That sounds fascinating!” Phaedra answered enthusiastically. “A doctor, even!”
“How about you?” ventured Yuko, a bit carefully.
“Oh, I’m not really involved with this at all,” Phaedra replied. “I’m a lit major, myself. Freelance journalist. I’m here with my boyfriend. He’s an engineer and one of the scientists who worked on the Cryobot. Actually, he should be here soon… Oh, there he is! David!”
Phaedra waved at someone behind Yuko. Yuko did not turn around. Somehow she had known since “engineer” who Phaedra’s boyfriend might be, and her fears were about to be confirmed.
“Hello, love!” David said brightly. “Oh, and Yuko! Nice to see you again!” He smirked and sat down between the two women, giving Phaedra a kiss as he did so.
“Oh, you know each other?” Phaedra asked.
“Oh, aye, we go way back, Yuko and me!” David smirked. “She studied for her Masters and her Doctorate in Marine Biology in Brisbane, at the same time as I took mine in physics. Proper chums, weren’t we, Yu-chan?”
“Yeah, sure…” Yuko replied coolly. “So, David… Phaedra just told me you worked on the Cryobot?”
David looked surprised. “Well… I did, a little bit…”
“He is so modest!” Phaedra interrupted him. “You practically invented it, darling! Was he this modest when you guys studied together, Yuko?”
Yuko looked at her for a moment, pondering how to answer. Then she looked at David, who looked a bit uncomfortable under her gaze, before answering, “Perhaps not quite so modest. But I suppose one can expect little else from a young man such as he was.”
Phaedra giggled. “Perhaps not,” she said. “So, did he have many girlfriends?”
David now looked positively alarmed, and appeared to hint something at Yuko with his eyes, but she didn’t make an effort to interpret it.
“For a long time, a new one every night,” she replied airily. “Then he settled on just the one, for a while…”
David looked down, frowning just a little. Then he plastered his smile back on and began talking animatedly with Phaedra about something. Yuko opened a bottle of sparkling water and filled her glass.