The six stories in this collection are linked by shared characters who have sustained various emotional scars from their amorous relationships.
The protagonist of Homura (“Flame”), the first story, is a young woman who works as an ad designer. The man she has been living with since graduating from college wants to get married, but she remains uncertain. While never breaking up with him, she carries on a series of assignations with another man, Kurosaki, whom she meets through a friend. Kurosaki tells her, “I wanted to hurt you.” After she learns that he has committed suicide, something continues to smolder deep in her heart . . .
Next is Tegata (Hand Prints), centering on Yōhei, an elite-track employee at a major electrical appliance firm. Six months ago his direct boss Kurosaki killed himself by jumping off the roof of the company’s building. He apparently sat on the roof’s edge for quite some time after clearing the safety fence: his handprints remain at the spot. Kurosaki had been reassigned to Yōhei’s department because he suffered from a critical illness; he kept a low profile at work, but he lived apart from his family, and his relationships with women provided endless grist for the rumor mill. Meanwhile Yōhei is growing weary of life with his wife, Akemi, and their 18-month-old son, and he broods endlessly over why Kurosaki killed himself . . .
The third story, Yubiwa (Ring), centers on Yōhei’s wife, Akemi. Her husband is completely hands-off when it comes to domestic chores and childrearing, but he has a very good income, and they live in a luxury condominium near her mother. Also blessed with a little boy, Akemi appears to have had all of her dreams come true, and yet she can’t bring herself to stop seeing the young job-hopper she’s been sleeping with.
The woman who lives in the apartment next door to the job-hopper is Saki, the protagonist of the fourth story, Yakedo (Burn). The illegitimate child of a Japanese man and a foreign woman, she grew up without knowing her mother. She never wants for money, and is enrolled in one of the country’s most prestigious universities, but she lives drifting about like a vagabond from one person’s house to another, and she was once Kurosaki’s lover. Her past includes being scarred in the back with a knife by her boyfriend in middle school, and she is now prone to self-harm behaviors . . .
In these stories of love and hate, dependence and independence, the author attempts to put into words the subtle gradations of feelings that linger after the initial passion has faded.