To day is the cover reveal for Summer Haikus by SJ Pajonas.This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.
“When it comes to fight or flight, I always choose to run like hell.”
Isa planned the perfect summer:
Tokyo and the Summer Olympics — check.
Helping her best friend prepare for the marathon — check.
Forgetting she’s in love with Masa — double check.
But when Isa’s mother is hospitalized, she has to abandon her summer plans to run the family’s Tokyo business. Masa’s offer to help makes it impossible for Isa to ignore him — and the firecracker kiss they shared half a world away. Everyone expects the world of her, but the pressure to please them all is as oppressive as the Tokyo summer heat. The simplest answer to all her problems? Run.
“You know, your mother wears a kimono every day when she works here.” Poor Reiko, roped into helping me get dressed in one of my mother’s kimonos, sighs as she places small cushions on my back and wraps obi fabric over them, sometimes pulling so hard, I jerk and nearly fall over.
“Really?” I take a deep breath as my body is constricted, first with the heavy silk fabric and then the obijime cords.
She nods as she faces me and evens out the line of obi across my front. “Yes, and this kimono is too old for you. You’re not married and should wear furisode kimono with longer sleeves.”
I frown down at the cream colored kimono and forest green obi. “I don’t have my own kimonos.”
“Nonsense.” Reiko puffs air between her lips and waves. “I’m sure your mother has some for you stored away. All mothers do that.”
I don’t want to remind Reiko that I grew up in the US and my mom lived there for over twenty years. If she did buy kimonos, I doubt they were for me.
“Thank you, Reiko-san,” I say, bowing and changing the subject. “I appreciate your help.”
I press my hands against my stomach, quashing the butterflies dancing around, and take a deep breath. Well, as deep as possible since there’s only so much freedom I have in a kimono like this.
“Remember to take small steps and don’t let the bottom of the kimono flop open.”
I nod my head at her as we leave the office. The front lobby is quiet, but I’m ready to greet guests early. My duty is to stand at the door, bow and talk to each person as he or she enters the banquet room. I touch my hair to make sure it’s still in place, swept to the side with an elegant silver comb, keeping my long bangs away from my face. I stick my head in the banquet room, and both sides of the long space are lined with floor cushions and small tables where we will serve food and sake. The woman we hired to play shamisen is setting up her instrument at the far end.
My phone in my obi buzzes so I pop it out and find a text from Halley. “Off the train and in a cab. Be there soon.”
Good. Everyone is on time!
“Wow,” Masa says, approaching me from the back room. His warm smile makes me start to sweat. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you in a kimono.”
“It’s a little strange. I haven’t worn one in years.”
“You look…” He falls to a stop only a foot from me before he jams his hands in his pockets.
“How do I look?” I whisper, wanting desperately to hear his opinion. I want to believe the pens were the opening salvo of a Masa assault to woo me, and he’s just warming up to the idea of us taking our friendship to more romantic levels.
Please, God. I want to be wooed!
“Isa!” Halley squeals, walking through the front door of the ryokan and shucking her shoes in exchange for the house slippers. “You look gorgeous! You haven’t worn a kimono since we were kids.”
She comes to hug me and I curse her timing. Masa was just about to say something to me. If he had complimented me, I would have reached for his hand. Now we’re three feet apart and my best friend is between us.
“Masa,” Halley says, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. His whole face blushes. “Good to see you outside of the 7-11.”
I envy Halley, the sinful feeling blossoming to jealousy quickly. She can do no wrong. Here she is, kissing Masa on the cheek and immediately claiming all the attention in the room as other people turn to look at her. Yet, she doesn’t even try to do this. It’s natural to her.
“Halley,” Masa says, nodding at her. “I didn’t realize you were coming tonight.”
“Isa must have forgotten to mention it.” She smiles and checks her phone.
“It slipped my mind with everything else going on. Halley, I’m in this seat by the door. Do you want to sit next to me or closer to the shamisen player?”
Halley glances from me to Masa, and they stare at each other for a heartbeat.
“I’ll sit on the opposite side of the room across from you. Masa, you should sit next to Isa.” She squeezes my arm, winks at me, and heads inside to sit at her spot. My face bursts into flames.
“You don’t have to sit next to me if you don’t want to,” I choke out, barely able to squeeze the words from my throat. All the easiness of our usual days falls away, and I feel like a helpless lovesick puppy. I blame the kimono. The kimono changed our whole dynamic.
Masa releases his hands from his black trousers and lets the gray, striped, button-down shirt fall over his waist. He steps forward into my personal space, glancing around at the people beginning to gather in the lobby and lounge, and takes my hand in his. The contact is electric, so charged I inhale sharply and hold my breath.
“I was going to say that you look beautiful,” he whispers. He squeezes my fingers in his and gently lets go. I let out my held breath and tremble as his fingers sweep across the skin of my wrist and up my inner arm. He grasps my elbow lightly and leans in to close his eyes and rest his forehead against mine for a brief moment.
I stand absolutely still, unwilling to move and break this spell. Quiet men say things with gestures, and oh, I am listening as hard as I can.
Soft steps on the wood floor startle us, and we jump apart. Masa keeps his eyes on the room and away from me as he sits down in the spot next to mine. I glance at Halley and she raises her eyebrows at me. She saw it. I didn’t just imagine Masa being that close to me.
I falter for a moment, not remembering where I am or what I was doing. Right. I’m a hostess. I smile at the guest approaching the door and motion him inside, welcoming him and everyone behind him into the room. I bow and gesture so much, my back begins to hurt, and I haven’t even gotten to the stressful part yet.
You can find Summer Haikus on Goodreads
You can request a copy of Summer Haikus for review on NetGalley
About the Author:
Stephanie (S. J.) is a writer, knitter, amateur astrologer, Capricorn, and Japanophile. She loves foxes, owls, sushi, yoga pants, Evernote, and black tea. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing or spending time outside, unless it’s winter. She hates winter. Someday she’ll own a house in both hemispheres so she can avoid the season entirely. She’s a mom to two great kids and lives with her husband and family outside NYC. They have no pets. Yet. When it comes to her work, expect the unexpected. She doesn’t write anything typical.