Date Published: 4/28/2017
Yumiko Itsumoto wants it all. An accomplished artist and feared attorney, she gets what she wants, all else be damned. Now she wants love, even if it means charting a new course for her life, but changing course can be dangerous. In mere moments, she tumbles from the dizzying pinnacle of success into a bottomless abyss of murder and treachery. Yumiko will not live happily ever after—not this time—but can she at least find a way to stay alive?
Author J. Whitney Williams follows CARRIED AWAY—his surprisingly intelligent and deftly written debut—with a story that is even sexier, more thrilling and more enthralling than the first.
Again taking the reader on a trip across the world, meeting strange people in strange places via a prodigious narrator, CHOSEN PATH follows Yumi, a powerful and apparently dispassionate supporting character introduced in book one. But appearances deceive. Here, the reader is immersed in Yumi—into the very depths of her complex mind, her conflicted yet determined soul, her insatiable sex drive.
When Yumi encounters the woman who she presumes to be the fiancée of the love of her life—perhaps her only true love—she has every reason to seize the opportunity that presents itself to erase the woman from both of their lives forever. It’s no wonder Yumi is the prime suspect for the unfortunate woman’s swift and seemingly heartless murder. Unable to recall herself, Yumi assumes the worst, too. It wouldn’t be the first tragic fate to befall someone who stood in her way—or the last—and cameras don’t lie.
In CHOSEN PATH, Williams explores the very essence of what makes us human. The protagonist, a uniquely flawed yet extraordinarily likable woman of many talents and trades, demonstrates the jealousy and manipulation we see in ourselves and despise in others. At the same time, we’re drawn to Yumi. Geisha. Samurai. Assassin. Pseudo-royalty. Nothing happens to her; she creates. If we all shaped our own circumstances, our destinies, as adroitly as she, what paths would we choose and where would they lead us?
Either I was mistaken to leave him, or I am mistaken to go back. I can no longer consider myself a woman who does not make mistakes. Neither am I self-conscious, nor do I dress for the benefit of others, and yet I feel silly walking up out of the subway wearing a kimono. That contradiction scares me in a way I do not understand. At least I am still a woman who faces her fears.
It must be Sunday. There are too many people on the street for a weekday. And I would be at work. My situational awareness is poor. I must take care not to walk past Kosei’s building. I know this insomnia impairs my judgment, so perhaps I am wrong about doing this. I don’t think I am. I think I love him, and I have learned that love matters. I was wrong—about a lot of things. I know that now. I’m not just desperate.
Which implies that I am, in fact, desperate. I am. I’m desperate to be able to sleep again. I know that, and I still believe I am making the right decision. Being aware of our biases helps us to mitigate their effects. But I remember missing him on quiet nights and in the rare mornings when I woke well rested. I wanted him with me at times when I wanted nothing else.
I’m not just desperate. I do love him, and I was wrong. Willow-sensei was right that I had been unwilling to make a decision between career and family. Lots of women juggle both, even with children, but fundamentally one or the other has to come first. My choice has always been career, without question, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I think today is Sunday.
Between practicing law and entertaining, career easily devoured almost all of me. I suppose I had two careers. I suppose they did devour all of me.
This is his building. The door code is still the same.
My decision is not which will come first. I have to give up one of those careers. No, like many of my thoughts today, that’s not true. He wouldn’t mind me booking engagements as a geisha. Only the sex concerned him. But if you’re going to play by the rules, why bother? It wouldn’t be the same. My thrill has always been the con—to see how far I can push a man’s judgment beyond what he knows to be unreasonable. Approaching as a geisha is simply one of my opening gambits. Only sex can truly destroy a man.
I am ready to give that up for him, all those years of careful study and practice. I am ready to let go. I am ready to compromise. I am ready to love harder than I work.
I am not ready to knock on his door.
How long have I been standing here? It bothers me that I don’t know. Too often lately I realize where I am and cannot remember how I got there. Those must be the moments in which I sleep.
It was a heavy thud against the inside of his door that woke me. I’m preening like a schoolgirl. Put your hand down, Yumi. The door remains closed. Maybe there was no thud. Maybe I dreamt it.
No, it was real. Lightly pressing my ear to the door, I can hear a woman’s heartbeat. It’s racing, and either she is very tall or her feet aren’t touching the ground. A slight moan escapes her throat, and her body lurches against the door again. I recognize the pattern. It’s him.
It’s the same intermittent cadence, the same thrusts and pauses. He never held me up like that. I should be the one on the other side of that door. A reflexive twitch of lustful anticipation turns to resentment and anger and other feelings for which I cannot remember the names. I need to leave.
A subway station? That must be my train pulling away. How long have I been standing here? There will be another in 15 minutes. When you miss a train, another comes—not so with people. I feel in my gut the hard truth that there is more between me and Kosei now than a door.
I should have anticipated that he would be seeing someone. He is a handsome man. He is also lighthearted, relaxed, casual. I need that. I need him back. His bed was the only place I ever felt I could rest, the only place I could still get to anyway.
I will be able to take him back from her, whoever she is, but it will require preparation. I must first discover my adversary. Nothing can be left to chance. She could be anyone.
I want him back so badly that I can smell his scent as if he were nearby. I’ve started seeing things lately too, little defects in the corners of my vision. It must be my lack of sleep. My situation is untenable.
“Oh, your kimono is so lovely!” I should thank the woman next to me for her compliment, but I already don’t like her. It’s only because I envy her. She seems so free and natural, so casual and peaceful, with the demeanor of a woman who just left a trusted lover’s bed. There is more than that though, maybe the engagement ring. It’s a beautiful ring.
“Thank you so much,” she says. “My boyfriend—my fiancé—just gave it to me today!” I wonder how much I said out loud. “It’s a dream come true,” she continues. “I’ve never met anyone like him. Is that our train?” Another is coming, but it won’t stop here. The local just left.
“No,” I answer. “The express.” The slightest moan escapes her in her disappointment. It echoes in my mind with the sound of Kosei’s lover, matching perfectly. I must be delusional, thinking this girl could possibly be the one. She is far too young, too frivolous, too modern. Her tank top and cutoffs are generic enough, but she wears glittered nail polish and has a little tattoo of a turtle behind her ear. Kosei wouldn’t be attracted to a girl like that.
She is an idiot. She wears her purse far too casually for how expensive it is. It must have been a gift from another idiot, but she doesn’t hold it as if it came from her idiot boyfriend.
The purse doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen plenty of old money wasted on oblivious girls. I have always taken care not to be one of them, not to be oblivious. The turtle offends me. That particular design is a ka-mon, a family emblem, Yoshimitsu to be precise. I can only infer that she likes turtles, because this girl is no Yoshimitsu. Kids today have no respect.
She jumps a little when her phone chirps and the purse inevitably falls. Once she digs her phone out of it, she doesn’t even stand before checking the message. It must be from her idiot boyfriend. His phone number is the same as Kosei’s.
She screams as she tumbles forward, right in front of the express train. I’ve never seen it happen before, but suicide by train is not uncommon. I wish people wouldn’t do that. It always throws off the scheduled service. It must make quite a mess for the maintenance people, too. Deafening shrieks of emergency brakes crowd out the echoes of her scream. At least there is one less idiot in the world.
It doesn’t make sense, though. She was so happy to be engaged. Why would she kill herself? She didn’t plan to. Even delirious as I am, I would have noticed suicidal intent in her mannerisms.
I feel sorry for her fiancé, for Kosei. He deserves better; I would never hurt him like she has. The thought of it makes me angry at her, but anger never solves anything. I wish I could go to him, to console him, but first I have to get rid of his lover somehow.
Wait. What just happened?
I need to leave.
About the Author
A mathematician by training and computer programmer by trade, J. Whitney Williams lives and works under the X in Texas, thinking too much and speaking too little.