Bright Ōsaka Star by puertaobierta
RetiredSummary:

 

Sara Richards lives in Ōsaka, Japan. She becomes embroiled in the drama and comedy of clashing cultures, traditional philosophies and modern ideas as she is reunited with the past. She struggles to navigate the tempestuous waters where East meets West and a love lost but not forgotten that may never be regained, while keeping her eye on the one point in the sky that can lead her the peace of dry land. Her Bright Ōsaka Star.

 

Fabulous Banner by Music!!!

 

 


Categories: Original Fiction Characters: None
Classification: Drabbles
Genre: Comedy , Drama, Family, Friendship, Inspirational, Romance
Story Status: None
Pairings: Male/Female
Warnings: Fluff, Original Characters, Sexual Content , Un-betaed , Work in Progress
Challenges: Spring Baby-Fic Challenge
Challenges: Spring Baby-Fic Challenge
Series: None
Chapters: 20 Completed: No Word count: 72940 Read: 78760 Published: April 05 2011 Updated: June 27 2012
Story Notes:

My submission for the Baby-Fic challenge. Even though its not really about the baby.

1. Actors & Actresses by puertaobierta

2. Ichi (1) by puertaobierta

3. Ni (2) by puertaobierta

4. San (3) by puertaobierta

5. Yon (4) by puertaobierta

6. Go (5) by puertaobierta

7. Roku (6) by puertaobierta

8. Sichi (7) by puertaobierta

9. Hachi (8) by puertaobierta

10. Kyu (9) by puertaobierta

11. Jyuu (10) by puertaobierta

12. Jyuu ichi (11) by puertaobierta

13. Jyuu ni (12) by puertaobierta

14. Jyuu san (13) by puertaobierta

15. Jyuu yon (14) by puertaobierta

16. Jyuu go (15) by puertaobierta

17. Jyuu roku (16) by puertaobierta

18. Jyuu sichi (17) by puertaobierta

19. Jyuu hachi (18) by puertaobierta

20. Jyuu kyu (19) by puertaobierta

Actors & Actresses by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

OMG! This was even harder than writing the story!

Anyway, here they are!

Junebug66 is a Goddess among mortals

(Thanks so VERY much for all your help)

 

 

 

 

 

 

End Notes:

I changed Yuki's photo because Daniel Henney is just the finest ass looking man in the whole fine ass world. He is my new obsession. 

Ichi (1) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Yukata - Informal Japanese garb (much like a simplified kimono).

Senpai - Honorific suffix for someone higher than you. 

Bunraku - Tradicional Japanese puppet show (very intricate/complicated and beautiful).

San - Honorific suffix (general).

Dogi - Aikido uniform.

Aikido & Jujitsu - Two different forms of Japanese martial arts.

Manju - Traditional Japanese sweet cake filled with sweet bean paste.

Udon-chiri - Chicken, seafood, vegetables, and udon noodles cooked in a boiling stock.

Sofu - Grandfather

Sobo - Grandmother 

Please forgive any errors in translation or identification. 

 

 

Please don't let my baby die

Please don't let my baby die

 

Something was squeezing the life out of her left hand but she did't care. It helped combat the pain.

 

Logic and reason tried to claw their way to the surface of consciousness but it pitched and swirled violently. They both disappeared into the darkness and she began to slip in and out of reality.

 

Her life began to play like a slideshow of shorts on youtube, slapdash and sporadic yet so vivid that she felt the joys and sorrows as if it were happening once again:

 

"Are you sure this is okay?"

"Yes." He pulled her right hand and she clutched her yukata close to her breast.

"I think the genders are separated Yuki."

"Leave it to me Sarua." she smiled. He never pronounced her name correctly. The combination of phonics was difficult for the Japanese.

She trailed behind him down the hall staring wide eyed at the modular spaces. This was the first time she had ever been in a capsule hotel. The modules flanked both sides of the hallway one after the other stacked two units high. He stopped in front of one and opened a door to the top unit. He climbed a few steps and crawled into the module.

"Are you sure we can both fit?" 

she peered into the six and a half foot long, three foot wide cubical for only a second before he hulled her in and closed the door behind her.

"Be careful of the TV." He pulled close the privacy curtain.

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

Yuki

 

Soft fabric swept her forehead and the smell of cherry blossoms invaded her senses.

 

She definitely felt nauseous and dizzy. If she didn't get fresh air now, she would throw-up or faint, maybe both. The embarrassment pushed her along as she stumbled toward the entrance.

"Where are you going?" a figure blocked her path.

"Outside, can you please step aside?"

"This is the men's room." Just then the floor started to rise and strong hands grabbed her and then she was moving. The next thing she felt was a tepid breeze. "You should be carful of drinking so much."

"I didn't drink anything but water." She tried to shrug off the heavy hands. "I don't know why Japanese love karaoke and I don't know why they smoke so much." She stopped struggling, "I think I might die of smoke inhalation."

Him laughing made her focus on his face. It was square, his cheekbones high and wide. 

"Your Japanese is very good."

"Thank you."

"I'm Umezawa Yukimoto."

"Sara Richards. Thank you for taking care of me." she bowed low.

"Where are you from?" He stopped her from bowing eyeing her with concern.

"The United States."

She took a deep breath of sea air and focused on his expensive looking suite with a frown.

"You are what they call, African American."

Her eyes shot back to his face and she lifted her head slightly.

"Yes."

He laughed again.

"You still look unwell. Over there they serve a very refreshing oolong tea."

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

His pale slender finger were only a tad longer than her own. Their hands were together suspended in the air wrist to wrist. They pivoted in unison from left to right until his fingers slipped between hers.

"Yuki? What is your family like?"

"Very traditional." He kissed her temple. There was silence.

"Have you ever been to the United States?"

"No." He kissed her cheek.

"Would you like to come with sometime? I will be your official interpreter and I will show you all the things I love most about it."

"Sounds nice." He shifted on top of her and pressed her into the bed. He felt warm. He dipped his head into her neck and she closed her eyes and slid her legs open so that he could lower himself between them.

He let go of her hand, grabbed her legs hooking her knees around his arms and firmly guided himself inside her.

"Yuki..."

He kissed her forehead.

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

She felt uncomfortable. 

"President, are you sure you are okay? Maybe you should go home." Her assistant had been hovering all day. 

"I'm fine, I think the baby is pressing on something."

"Then it can't be helped. I will leave first then."

Sara had so much work to do. The baby was due in two weeks and there were orders to be filled and bookkeeping to be updated. She wanted things to run smoothly while out on maternity leave. 

The uncomfortableness turned into a dull ache and she decided to take the paperwork home with her. As she walked to the train her heart rate started to speed up. The pain began to attack the organs surrounding her stomach and bladder. The ride wasn't long, if only she could make it to her home. She bit down on her lip and tried to regulate her breathing.

Step after step drained her energy and increased the pain.

Something was wrong with the baby. She fought to remain conscious as she walked down the hall to her apartment, she could see the neighbor's door just ahead, but it was too late. She desperately clung to the wall.

"Help me. Yuki."

She slid down the wall and into darkness.

 

Help me Yuki

Save our baby

Yuki, Please

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

"She always looks at me disapprovingly Sarua." They were looking after an elderly neighbor and her husband as the walked away.

"Shinohara-senpai is always very quiet. She doesn't say much even when I put forth effort. I don't think I've ever heard her husband speak. That is the way they are."

"Do you know much about her?" He grabbed her hand and they walked towards her apartment.

"They are regulars at the local temple and there is always heavenly smells coming from her kitchen."

She thought a moment as she opened the door and they entered and took off their shoes.

"I think they had one son, but he died."

"That is probably why she is sour." He walked past her and into the kitchen towing their bags of ingredients. She liked how he made himself comfortable in her apartment, as if it were his own.

"You shower first. I will get started on my version of an Osaka delicacy. Udon-chiri." He began emptying the bags.

"Don't burn down the building."

"Ha, ha."

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

They eased down onto his bed with her straddling his lap. His hands slid up her back and into her hair as they kissed. She pushed her body against his and they fell back. 

"Sarua, you are very active this evening." He pulled her head to his again and just as their lips touched, the door chime began to ring. They looked at each other confused.

"Expecting someone?"

"No." His head fell back on the bed in thought.

The chime erupted again. This time the visitor didn't stop. His eyes widened. 

"My mother."

"Oh God."

She hopped off him and stood. She had not met his family yet and this was not the way she wanted to be introduced. She ran around the room stuffing her things in her overnight bag and headed for the door.

"No." He pulled her in the opposite direction and put her on the balcony. He put his finger to him mouth and closed the curtain. "I'll get rid of them quickly." Then pecked her cheek.

She imagined him walking to the door calmly. She heard it open.

"Mother, father..."

"Why did you not show up at the National Bunraku Theater? Everyone expected to see you. Especially the ___ family." It was a woman's voice. She spoke with a steel frailness that made Sara shiver.

"I forgot, I am sorry." Yuki sounded so formal.

"You have been forgetting many things as of late son." A man's voice followed. It sounded wise.

"I am sorry father."

"Apologizing? We do not wish your apologies." His mother angrily retorted. "We know what you have been doing Yukimoto. We were not worried at first. Where you take your pleasure and from whom is none of our concern. However, lately you have become careless. You have begun to neglect the ____ families daughter. Have you forgotten you are engaged to her?"

There was a long pause, "No."

Sara was too stunned to focus on the rest of the conversation. She had no idea he was engaged. She was also embarrassed. His mother spoke of her as if she were some common trollop. More things were said about his obligations to the family and the financial benefits of the coming nuptials. In the end, they all but demanded Yuki to stop seeing her.

Though this was painful, his answer hurt more.

"Yes, immediately." She heard rustling and the front door close.

She came from behind the curtain and saw him standing shirtless in Adidas track pants. He was so beautiful, his skin like porcelain. He look statuesque with his head bowed in shame.

She walked up to him, he didn't look at her. Instead, he turned his head away. She hoisted her overnight bag over her head and walked to the door. She forgot she had nothing on but a long shirt. She opened the door and walked out without looking back.

He did nothing to stop her and he never contacted her again.

 

 

``````````  ~~~~~  ``````````

 

"Sarua-san, Sarua-san."

Sara blinked her tear filled eyes and a face began to materialize above her.

"Yuki?"

The apparition became real and a woman's weathered face looked softly down at her.

"Shinohara-senpai?"

The woman nodded. Sara turned her head and saw her husband sitting near. A slender piece of white paper dangled from a string below his hands and his lips moved in a silent chant. She noticed they were in a vehicle.

"My baby."

Shinohara gently put her hand on Sara's forehead and nodded.

Her eyes closed and she slipped into peaceful unconsciousness.

 

<<<<>>>>

 

Sara tied the belt of the boy's dogi and gave it a yank. Around them parents spoke encouragingly with their kids arranging and rearranging their Aikido uniforms.

"Mommy after this can we go for Tsuriganemanju and green tea?"

"Shouda you shouldn't use English unless its something others shouldn't here." Sara gave her son a knowing look and kissed his cheek.

"They shouldn't hear it. Then they will want to come and I want to go with sobo and sofu Shinohara and you." He kissed her back.

Sara smiled and was about to answer when the Director came through clapping his hands.

"Please everyone, may I have your attention. I am very honored to inform you that our benefactor is here to speak to the children before they go back on stage. Please welcome Umezawa-senpai and his wife." He bowed very low as did the other parents. Sara's heart stopped beating all together and a tug on her blouse from Shouda made her remember her manners.

 

"You all have preformed very well this evening. Your Jujitsu exhibition was excellent. I am happy to see such love for the traditions of Japan amongst our young ones. Thank you also to the families that support and foster that love. I am happy to be a humble servant." He bowed low and all the parents reciprocated in kind. He then began to talk with individual students. Yuki enjoyed being with the young children, especially since he and his wife were yet unable to have any. His wife was bitter about it. Even now as he glanced at her he could tell her smile was fake.

They had both been to many doctors and all the prognoses were the same, she was sterile. It had been quite a blow to both families. As an only son, Yuki would be the last of his father's house. The parents rarely met and there was much animosity between them.

"Yuki-san, Yuki-san!"

He looked down at his favorite student. His dark square face shined up at him. He had to be of mixed heritage. Yuki had often contemplated it. He was a beautiful little boy and his intrepid nature had captured his heart from the beginning.

 

At the sound of Yuki's voice a sadness filled Sara's heart. It had been eight years since she walked out of his apartment. They had not once spoken since then. He had no idea she carried his son. 

"Mommy!" Shouda came with Yuki in tow laughing, probably at his boldness. Shouda was not a shy boy. Sara gathered all her strength to bridle her emotions and waited for Yuki to look up at her. When their eyes met, his smile dropped, his eyes widened and he looked down at Shouda. She looked down at their son as well.

"Shouda, what bad manners you have."

He let go of Yuki's hand and bowed.

"Excuse me," then turned to his mother, "but mom I wanted you to meet Yuki-san. He worked with me many times during Jujitsu class. He helped me perfect my stance." Shouda demonstrated.

"That was very kind of you to take an interest in Shouda." She bowed to him and his wife with a smile.

"Your son you say?" His wife stepped up and patted Shouda's head. "My husband often talks about him." Another mother won over Her attention and she stepped away from the three of them.

"Mom, do you think we could invite Yuki-san for manju and tea?" His animation made Sara smile.

"I am sure Umezawa-senpai has other important things to do." She looked back up at Yuki whose face she could not read. The Director began to round up the children. Sara bent down and exchanged kisses and a hug with Shouda. He turned to Yuki and bowed before running to wait for their entrance onto stage. The parents followed.

 

Yuki held Sara's gaze and walked up to her. There was no anger in his eyes, instead, they were pleading. There were so many things racing around in his head. The first time he met Shouda, laughing with Shouda, catching him after a flip had gone wrong, a hug Shouda gave him...

"Just answer me this. Is he mine?"

"Yes."

End Notes:

Thank you for reading.

Please excuse errors.

Should I do more? 

Ni (2) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Here we go folks. Thank you for all the votes of confidence and support. I was quite overwhelmed with the response.

I've been working on this a while and I have to admit that I'm not gaga over it. I'm not sure if its because I'm caught up in my other very intense story and this one is lighter or if I'm doing a bad job at writing.

Anyway, I wil rely on you.

Translations/Explanations:

Umeda - administrative/commercial center of Osaka.

Shinsaibashi - Luxury shopping district

Go - a traditional Japanese strategy game (loosely similar to checkers, the board is larger, the pieces smaller and nothing gets stollen or Kinged). Its a lot of fun.

Kanji - traditional Chinese characters used in modern Japanese

Hakama - formal Japanese male garb

Kimono - formal Japanese garb worn by both males and females

Washitsu - traditional Japanese room with tatami mat floor

Tatami - floor mats made of straw

Obi - wide sash

Genkan - entrance area where shoes are deposited

Zori - tradition shoe, usually formal, worn with kimono (much like a flip-flop)

Please excuse errors, I know they're out there.

 

Umezawa Yukimoto, heir to the Umezawa group, one of the largest conglomerates in the tri-city area (Kyōto, Ōsaka and Kōbe), presently sat in his large executive suit in one of the tallest buildings off the famous Mido Suji Boulevard in Umeda. Most of Ōsaka lay before him an abstract carpet of buildings, highways and high rises dotted with street, office and commercial lights all kissed by the setting rays of the sun. Yukimoto, though, was not peering at the world beneath his feet haughtily nor appreciatively. His eyes wandered the landscape but saw only Sara. 

Sara had carried his child and raised him into a very kind, loving and amiable young boy. 

Sara. 

He had treated her horribly when they were last together. She had not tried to inform him of her pregnancy. Instead, had endured everything on her own. He smiled. She always did have that stubborn streak. Now what was he to do? He had a son. 

Had a son! 

He wanted to be a part of his life. He desperately wanted to touch him, talk to him, spend time with him.

"Manager. I have completed the modifications to your schedule tomorrow and compiled all the data for your meetings. Please remember to arrive early tomorrow as your first meeting is at five thirty and the legal teem will be delivering the documents that must be signed before the meeting."

He had failed to here his secretary enter, "Thank you, you may leave." He heard the quiet click of the door latch and then rose with resolve. He would not let this opportunity pass by. He would claim Shouda openly.

 

***

 

As always, the dinner table was rather gloomy. His parents rarely spoke to his wife and his wife constantly tried to engage his parents. It was a painful cycle. His father entertained her conversation, but not with a great deal of enthusiasm and his mother mostly acted as if she did not exist. Yuki waited for the servants to leave the room before clearing his throat. There was no honor in procrastination, his father always said.

"Father, mother, Kaoru, there is a matter of great importance I wish do discuss with you." He paused to emphasis importance. "I...I have a child." Everyone froze. "A son. I found out about him only recently. I wish to welcome him into this house. To take responsibility."

Silence.

"I know this is sudden and I know this may be difficult for some of you. However, I feel it is the right thing to do. I hope to have your cooperation." He rested both his wrists on the table and waited for the reaction.

"You have a child?" His wife, Kaoru, stared down onto her plate of half eaten food.

"Yes, he is the result of an attachment I had before we married." He spoke softly, but did not look at her.

"You have a son? A child?" His mother blinked several times. Her husband touched her arm to stay the brewing storm, but it was not as he thought. "I have a grandchild?" She could hardly contain her excitement. "A boy? Yukimoto, you must bring him to the house. He must come here and take his position in the family. He must learn of his ancestors and become an Umezawa."

"Dear."

"How old is he? Where is he from? Who is his family? Well, that does not matter for he shall become an Umezawa, his family is unimportant." She waved them away.

"That is not true mother." Yuki had not been expecting her immediate acceptance though her aggression was normal. "His family is important. We cannot separate him from them. He does not know us."

"He will come to know us, my son, you worry over trivialities. His family will of course recognize the importance of our family and position and surrender him to our care."

"I do not think that will be the case mother. His mother is a Westerner, an American. I also believe that before you embrace the idea, you should know that she is African American. The child is mixed."

His wife, who had here to been silent, now spoke, "Young Shouda from the martial arts club."

"Yes."

"You will excuse me." Kaoru stood and quickly left the table. Yuki watched her leave with a heavy heart, but he felt he could do nothing.

His mother also stood. "It matters not what his mother is. I will try my best to overlook her unfortunate heritage. This Shouda is my grandson. You will arrange for him to come to the house immediately for a formal introduction. I will begin the preparations." With that she also left the table leaving a rather astonished husband and Yuki behind.

"You realize my son that you have just stirred a bee's nest?" Mr. Umezawa finally said.

"Would you have me shirk my responsibility father?"

"If you feel this strongly about it, no. I just wonder if the poor boy and his mother will be able to withstand it. Also there is your wife."

"I have not forgotten father. She has been beyond my reach for some time."

"What about the child's mother? Do you harbor feelings for her?"

After a long pause Yuki answered truthfully, "I have not thought about it."

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

A week had passed with no word from Yuki. Not that she expected one. Not that Sara especially needed one. Somehow she felt, after witnessing the look on his face at the performance, he wanted more. He had been excited, relieved and stricken all at the same time. Maybe she should have informed him in the beginning. Had she been too selfish? Was she being vindictive? Maybe she was wrong and he wanted nothing to do with them.

He had, after all, tossed her out of his life. Dragged her around Japan without so much as a word about his family or who he was. Partially that was her fault too, Sara had never pressed the issue. She had enjoyed being with him and somehow, that had been enough. She had thought he loved her, shared her feelings.

Sara's focus shifted back to the organized chaos on her desk. An enormous project lay before her. She made personalized stationary, invitations, albums, announcements, portfolios, anything to do with paper. Her current customer requested everything in her arsenal for a wedding. Invitations, cards, an album, stationary, guestbook, and announcements; all in the same style to be used through different stages leading up to the wedding and reception afterwards.  

She set up the business never thinking that it would do so well, after all, the Japanese are some of the most artistically creative people in the world. Why would anyone go to a Westerner for things like this?

She had caught a break while pounding the pavement with a few of her creations in hand. A small, but stable law firm needed invitations immediately to a special event they were hosting. Their order had been lost or forgotten, no one really elaborated. The owner liked one of her samples and submitted his order on the spot. Her work had been such a success that customers began to call and the firm was still a client.

Since then she had been blessed with steady work and recently was offered assistance to move to Tokyo. Still she retained only one full-time employee, her assistant and a part-time employee. She liked the intimate feel of the business. She had moved from a very small but tidy office on the outskirts of Ōkaka to the famous Shinsaibashi district in Ōsaka's Chūō-ku ward shopping haven. 

"President, you have a call on line one." 

Sara picked up a marble vellum sheet and held it up to pearlescent wine colored paper as she answered the phone. "Good evening, this is Sara Richards. How may I assist you?" She dropped the marble vellum paper and held up another vellum with cherry blossom watermarks.

"Hello Richards-san? This is Umezawa Yukimoto." the papers slid to the desk. "You are surprised to hear from me?"

"Umezawa-san, yes a little." She grabbed a pen and began nervously twirling it between her fingers.

"Please forgive the intrusion. I am calling to ask your approval."

"You want to see Shouda."

Silence

"Yes. I have informed my family of his existence."

"He doesn't know about you Umezawa-san."

"Please, can we not be so formal?" She closed her eyes against the familiarity of his voice. For some reason a disjointed memory passed before her eyes:

 

They walked hand in hand up the few steps to the onyx colored memorial at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hypocenter. Sara had no idea why, but she felt a profound sense of guilt as she approached the tomb like structure and squeezed Yuki's hand. There were flowers adorning the two edges. Her eyes roamed the obelisk like edifice behind it and water seeped into her eyes.

"You must not cry Sarua. It is a sad result of generations gone by."

"How did you know how I was feeling Yuki?" She turned to look at him in surprise.

He lifted his hand and wiped away the liquid threatening to escape down her face. 

"Because I see you Sarua."

 

"Yukimoto-san." Why had she thought of that? 

"Thank you Sarua-san. I know that I have no right to impose this on you, but please, will you think about it? Will you tell him about me?"

Sara had thought several times about telling Shouda over the past week. Now that he had asked, she felt trepidation.

"I...will think about it Yukimoto-san. That is all I can promise for now."

"It is enough."

 

***

 

Sara sipped tea and watched Shinohara-san play Go with Shouda. They sat on opposite sides of a large wooden block on four stubby legs. The surface of the block was divided into several squares now littered with black and white stones. Both men stared at the game intensely. Shouda picked a white stone from the small wooden bowl at his feet and paused before placing it on the surface. His reward was a grunt from Shinohara-san.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and they all sat in the living space of the Shinohara home. They men engrossed in their game, the woman drinking tea. Mrs. Shinohara's eyes narrowed to exaggerated slits in her large turtle shell magnifying glasses as she pressed the back of her pen into her bottom lip, a tattered kanji-sudoku crossword puzzle book clutched in her other hand.

Sara flipped through her magazine and tossed it aside. "Sensei, do you remember the important man I told you about? He wants to meet with Shouda." The woman eyed Sara then sipped her tea. "He wants to introduce him to his family, to be a part of his life. What do you think?"

"What do you think?"

"I think it will be difficult. I am afraid it might cause too many problems. I am afraid of many things." Sara gazed down into her tea.

"Life is filled with difficulties Sarua, and fear is what tests the spirit. You are strong and so is Shouda." After all this time, the Shinoharas were still people of few words. Sara smiled to herself. They were very comforting in their easy quiet way. She was glad Shouda preferred their company to the kids at school, but wondered when that would end. As Shouda grew older, how would she be able to care for his needs? Mr. Shinohara was elderly, how much would he be able to help? She sighed.

 

As they left later on that afternoon Mr. Shinohara touched Sara's hand gently and nodded his head. "You must do it." His words were calm yet firm. He gave a grunt and put his hands behind his back. 

Sara smiled at him. "Thank you for your hospitality."

 

***

 

"Shouda?" Sara put her ink pen down and crawled on the floor beside her son. "Can we talk a minute? I have something important to tell you." He looked at her quizzically and rose up on his knees. She scratched her head. "Shouda, you don't ask much about your father."

He shrugged his young shoulders, "He's never been around. What's there to ask?"

"Who he is? Where he went? Why he isn't around? What's his name? I don't know. I would think you had lots of questions." She ruffled his hair.

He squinted his eyes as if he was thinking seriously and looked off to the left. "Well, I have thought about it, but I thought maybe it was painful for you. You know, to talk about."

She laughed, "Painful to me?" Then she gave him a hug. "What about you?" She asked the top of his head.

"I think it would be nice to have a dad like the kids at school." He squeezed his mother, "But I have you and sobo and sofu Shinohara. Then there's grandma and grandpa Richards and uncle Ward and everyone stateside." Sara squeezed him tighter and closed her eyes. "Mom, why is your heart beating so fast?"

"Would you like to know your father Shouda?" He stilled in her arms. "He called me and he wants to be friends with you. He asked me to tell you about him."

He backed away from her slowly and gazed up at her with his brows furrowed. "He knows about me?"

"He does now."

"Why now?"

Sara sighed. "Your father and I were in a relationship for a few months. It ended abruptly before I found out I was pregnant with you. He and I didn't talk after we parted so he didn't know he had a son. He found out recently."

"What do you mean, ended abruptly?"

"He decided he didn't want to be with me anymore." She took a curl pulled it straight and watched it bounce back into place.

"But you did?"

"Yes, I did."

"Then why did he end it?"

Sara took his head in her hands. "That is probably something he should answer." She kissed his forehead.

"If he doesn't want you than I don't want him." 

She smiled, "Shouda it isn't that simple. You have a father and grandmother and grandfather too. Don't you think you aught to at least give them a chance?"

"They are all strangers."

"Actually, you know your father." She bit the inside of her lip.

"I do?"

"Yes, he's Yuki-san." Sara watched her son's eyes widen as close as they could to saucers.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Yuki sighed in irritation. He couldn't understand why his mother had to have a traditional introduction. All the men were forced to wear hakama appropriate to their station and the women kimonos. Shouda and Sara would be received in the washitsu were there would be a formal tea ceremony after which a tour of the house was planned and finally a meal. He wondered how adept at formalities Sara and Shouda would be. At first his mother thought it unnecessary for Sara to come, but he had insisted that it would be and insult to not invite her.

He was relieved to receive Sara's phone call accepting the invitation. Then annoyed when he had to inform her of the formality. He remembered she didn't say anything for a few minutes then gave the affirmative with a stubborn edge to her voice. Not that he hadn't tried to talk his mother out of it, but as uncomfortable as it may be for Sara and Shouda, he felt that there would be more important battles ahead. He would save his strength.

Servants passed carrying flower arrangements in a variety of sizes and colors. He checked his watch. They had sent a car to pick them up, it should be on its way back.

 

***

 

Sara sat in the vary spacious Mercedes Benz and bit the inside of her lip.  Shouda sat up under her with his arm linked in hers even though there was enough space for four people. She felt sorry for him. Even though his face was calm, she could tell he was nervous. If only Yuki's mother wasn't such an elitist shrew. She said a quick prayer asking the Lord to help her be a good example for Shouda.

The Shinohara's had helped them dress and seen them off. Mr. Shinohara had sat with Shouda in the lobby of their apartment building with his arm around the young boy. She was sure they had been communicating even though neither said a word. When the car arrived he had straightened Shouda's obi and placed his weathered hands firmly on his shoulders, then cupped his face gently and grunted with a nod. 

"Remember, you are strong." Mrs. Shinohara had called before they both bowed their heads and the door was shut.

Sara took heart.

The car passed through an impressive looking gate and rounded an arch to the front entrance. The house was very large for central Ōsaka. Stone steps led up to a large ornately carved wood door. Japanese Black Pines flanked both sides of the short walkway surrounded by a light mossy ground cover. Two large bonsai trees sat in elaborate planters on the porch. The car door opened and Sara ushered Shouda out and carefully followed him taking care with her kimono. The driver pulled out the two bags she brought with them and walked up to the door.

Sara turned to Shouda. "All you have to do is tug your ear and we are out of here. Even if I have to bust the damn door down myself. Okay?" She spoke in English.

"Got it." He nodded. They mounted the steps together; the driver pulled the door chime and Sara took her bags from him.

 

***

 

The door chimed and Yuki about jumped out of his skin. His mother flew by.

"They are here! Go slowly, slowly." She instructed one of the servants stretching out her hand to emphasis the slowness. "We will be in the washitsu ready to receive them. Do not waste unnecessary time Yukimoto. Say hello, bond and bring them in." She hurried off as his wife came down the hallway. "Kaoru be quick about it and stop sulking." 

He felt very sorry for Kaoru. Perhaps she was suffering more than anyone with these events. He had tried to comfort her, but she would not let him in her room and she would not stay in any one place long enough to let them talk. They had never been especially close and with the discovery that she could not bare children, the void between them had grown, but not necessarily because he wanted it to. She would not find joy, would not even try. What is more, she wanted him to be miserable with her.

He took his place and watched the servant slowly walk to the door. He puffed his chest, held up his chin and inhaled. The servant pulled the heavy latch, the door opened and bowed. A few seconds later, his son and Sara entered into the genkan and stepped out of their shoes. Another servant provided them with informal styled zōri and they stepped up onto the house floor. Shouda grabbed Sara's hand and they followed the servant to where he stood.

He took in his son's appearance. He looked fashionable in his warm brown and cream hakama. The brown fabric had a very light bamboo pattern on it that resembled pinstripes. It bloused out down to his ankles and underneath he wore a cream lightweight kimono. The obi was also cream. He wore a fresh cut and looked a right proper heir to the Umezawa fortune. He lacked nothing.

They stood and stared at each other for a while then Shouda smiled. Yuki finally exhaled and returned his smile. 

"It is funny how we knew each other, before we knew each other." Shouda continued to stare at him.

"Yes, but I was very happy to discover that you are my son. I must apologize for the formality of this meeting. It is not what I had in mind. I was thinking something more like a bottomless bowl of ramen but my family is traditional."

"Mom already explained it all." He swung his hand linked with Sara's then seemed to remember something. "Should we bow?"

"I don't think that is necessary." Yuki looked at their tightly joined hands and turned to Sara. "Thank you for bringing him Sarua-san." He heard someone clear their throat and turned to an embarrassed servant. He remembered what his mother said and motioned for them to follow. It wasn't until he walked in behind them that he noticed Sara's kimono was a beautiful shade of yellow, very light and happy. Embroidered maples leaves drifted from the top eventually accumulating at the bottom in various colors from bright orange to robust vermouth. Her obi a soft peach with gold embroidery. Her hair swept up into a simple bun to one side secured by two traditional ornamented hair pins.

She looked down at Shouda and smiled. 

Yuki swallowed.

The door slid open and they stepped onto the tatami floor and stopped. Yuki's father, mother and wife sat in a row on the mats awaiting their arrival. Several servants sat a little ways behind them and two stood by the two sliding doors.

Sara and Shouda bowed in unison. "Excuse the intrusion."

Shouda confidently stepped forward. "Thank you for the honor of you invitation." He bowed again. 

Yuki looked at his parents. His father's bow lifted slightly and he bowed followed by the women. "Thank you for accepting the invitation. Please, sit down."

Sara and Shouda took their place opposite everyone else and smoothly rested down into the traditional sitting position. Yuki took his place beside his wife, after which, he introduced everyone, more bowing took place and then the questions began.

How old was Shouda? Where did he go to school? What Junior High School did he want to get into? Did he like studying? Did he play sports? An instrument? Where did he live? What did he like to eat? Did he enjoy martial arts? Had he thought about an occupation? Did he enjoy school? What did he like to do for recreation? How were his grades? Did he have many friends? How old was he? When was his birthday? Would he like to stay at the family dueling?

"What do you mean?" Shouda looked confused. Sara took a discreet breath.

"I mean stay here, at the house with us. You are the son of an Umezawa and every generation of Umezawa has lived in this house. Isn't that so dear?" Mrs. Umezawa turned to her husband.

"I think the circumstances in this situation bear consideration." He turned his head only slightly and then smiled once again at Shouda.

"He must get to know his family. What better way than to live here, with us." Mrs. Umezawa smiled as if it was the most obvious conclusion.

"My mother is my family, and sofu and sobo Shinohara. I will stay with them." Shouda face was too serious. Sara touched his arm lightly.

"Shouda will remain with me. I understand your eagerness and expect to come to an acceptable visitation arrangement. For today, let us get to know one another without pressure or pretense, please." There was a firmness in her voice which ended the subject, yet her smile cut any malice.

Mrs. Umezawa looked disagreeably startled. Mr. Umezawa impressed as he signaled for the tea ceremony.

 

Everyone sat stoically through the ceremony and then rose for the tour of the house. Mrs. Umezawa held the women behind while Shouda chatted fearlessly with his father and grandfather. Every few minutes he would glance to make sure his mother was behind them.

"May I call you Sarua-san?" Mrs. Umezawa leaned in as they walked.

"Please do." 

"Let me revisit the subject of Shouda living with us." She place a hand tentatively on Sara's arm.

"Revisit? I think I made it very clear that Shouda will not live here."

"You did mention something like that, but surely you understand the importance of him filling the role of the next heir as soon as possible. There are so many things he must learn and understand. His standard of living will rise, his connections increase to a social level of which he is not yet accustomed. He will have to give up..."

"Please be careful of what you say next Umezawa-san. As to Shouda and what will and will not occur in the future, these things will be decided between Yukimoto-san and myself."

"It is unwise for you to go against me Sarua-san."

"Go against you? This is not some political power struggle Umezawa-san. I have no wish to go against you. I only meant for you to understand my feelings on the matter."

"Do you know who I am?" The steel like edge returned to her voice and crossed her hands in front of her.

"It is clear that you know who you are. To me, you are made of flesh and blood as am I. I am under no obligation to do as you wish when you wish it. I hope that we may come to an understanding for Shouda's sake, that is all." With that Sara noticing Shouda's concerned face, smiled and sped up her steps. He held his hand to her and she took it.

 

The meal was again in the washitsu where a long low table and cushions had been arranged. Kaoru and Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa sat on one side while Yuki, Shouda and Sara sat on the other. A bowl was passed around with heated wet towels and everyone washed there hands. The dinner was tense with Mrs. Umezawa trying her best to intimidate Sara from across the table. Sara happily ignored her, which only made things worse. Kaoru sat quietly not making eye contact with anyone.

 

In the end Shouda, when reminded by his mother, passed out the gifts he brought for everyone as they prepared to leave. Only Yuki saw them to the door, he waved away the servant.

Yuki bent down on one knee. "Shouda thank you for coming. You handled yourself very well in front of my family. I apologize if they offended you."

Shouda put his hand on Yuki's shoulder, "Next time lets do ramen okay?" With that he shot out of the house as if his pants were on fire. Yuki rose to his feet as he and Sara laughed.

"Thank you Sarua for your forbearance." He notice the long bang she styled to the side and tucked behind her ear. He noticed Shouda's smile, really Shouda had her smile.

She brought her hand to her face, "I'm afraid your mother may hate me now."

"Are you really surprised?"

"No." They laughed again. "Yukimoto I...I brought this for you." She pulled an album out of her bag and handed it to him. "It has pictures and amusing excerpts about Shouda from my pregnancy until now." He flipped through the album. "There is one pen drive with all the pictures I own of him on it, the other is packed with videos of his firsts and funnies."

"Very creative. You made this?" He noticed the quality of the paper, the meticulous attention to detail and little hand sewn pockets that held odds and ends like the pen drives.

"That's what I do." She laughed as their eyes met. They gazed at one another sharing some lost moment. She touched her temple. "I should go, Shouda is waiting."

"I will call to schedule a visit." He called after her.

Sara turned around and smiled before ducking into the car. The driver closed the door.

Yuki watched the car drive off before shutting the front door. He rested his chin on the album then sniffed it.

 

It smelt like Sara.

 

End Notes:

I'm looking for nays and yays here.

Thanks for reading.

San (3) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

So many reviews! I am so glad you are enjoying this story. I think I've gotten used to it now. Anyway, I VERY much appreciate your encouragement.

*sets wood box in the floor and steps up on it*

Ehem...I feel it incumbent upon me to say a few words here. First, I am not an expert in Japanese linguistics, etiquette or culture. Second, this is a work of fiction, which means I use my artistic license a bit. Thirdly, I welcome any and all corrections or suggestions as to things I may have penned wrong, however, I reserve the right to change them. I'm just throwing this out there, make of it what you wish.

Please excuse all errors in translation/explanation/usage

Ubune - small Japanese flat bottom fishing boat

Bentō - home-packed meal consisting of rice, fish or meat and pickled or cooked vegetables, placed in a box shaped container in order of consumption.

Domburi - portion of white rice covered in either meat, chicken and egg or tempura

Shitajiki - soft black mat used for Japanese calligraphy 

please excuse my writing errors too. 


"He is a happy young man. Sarua-san must have done something right." His mother's words greeted Yuki as he entered a more western styled room. His mother and father were taking tea along with Kaoru. 

"Shouda is a very pleasant and brave boy." His father observed.

"He speaks very determined for a boy of his age. With a little polish he will do just fine. His hakama was a bit off and a little loud, but what could expect from a foreigner. I think we should change his hair style, it was a bit short don't you think?" Her eye stared at the table in thought. "I'm sure he needs new clothes and I'll have to call about getting into the academy. He definitely should attend the same school as the Umezawa men before him. Surely that churlish little mother of his would agree to that." She mumbled the last bit before taking a sip of tea.

"Dear."

"What? She was totally ignorant of her station. She sat quietly enough pretending to follow our traditions and imitating our culture, but she completely lacks the skill to move in our society and has too much pride to admit it! Her kimono was second rate and don't even get me started on those tacky hair ornaments. And her smile was too big, all teeth." She shook her head.

"You mean, bright, mother. Her smile was very bright and genuine. You would not recognize it as you have so little experience in the matter." Yuki said it calmly enough but inside he felt angry and ashamed.

 

"Sara's kimono was very pretty indeed Umezawa-san, and it was arranged very well I thought." Kaoru spoke softly. She was thinking of the woman she had met that night in the theater, the same that walked into the house today. She wondered what it was her husband had liked about her. Had he been in love with Sara? She stole a glance at him. He returned a appreciative look. It grated her nerves and she looked away.

She had gone to all the right schools, followed all the protocols, attended a finishing school and one of the top Universities in Japan. She traveled to several countries, knew all the right people, came from a wealthy family and all it got her was married to Yuki and stuck in the Umezawa family. He was a good catch on all counts, but they had never fallen in love. Kaoru wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa had fallen in love. Did anyone ever in these arranged marriages?

Her duty was to be a good wife and provide heirs. Her inability to do the latter obstructed her motivation to be the first. If she couldn't preform these simple duties, what good was her life, especially one with the Umezawas. She tried to talk with her mother and friends about it, but everyone was stuck in the same mindset. No one understood.

She felt terribly lonely.

 

"I thought she looked very well myself, dear. I think you are biased by envy." Mr. Umezawa rose. All the occupants in the room regarded him as if he had grown another head, including the servants quietly moving about.

"Envy? Why would I envy that dreadful foreign woman?" Mrs. Umezawa's cup clanked against the table.

"Because she has something you want, Shouda. I shouldn't worry my dear, Sarua-san seems a reasonable person." This staged his exit, which he took without looking back to see the stunned looks on the faces he left behind.

Mr. Umezawa, the President of the Umezawa group. Wealthy, powerful, a sharp businessman. He had married very well to a beautiful, yet feisty woman, the woman he wanted. He actually had to steal her away from another man. She proved to be invaluable over the years in helping him get what he wanted. He had taken to ignoring her when their desires were different, but mostly he found her ravings amusing and accompanied her to stave off boredom. Until now, the odds were always stacked in her favor. He had the delightful feeling that things would become increasingly more interesting.

 

Why, all of a sudden, was everyone so vocal? Yuki rarely heard his father speak to his mother in that manner. His mother's expression belied no irritation when he looked to see her reaction. She calmly lifted her cup to her lips again. Kaoru, who hardly ever expresses genuine personal feelings and even acted out of the ordinary. He wished he could talk with Kaoru. He took a few steps toward her. When she noticed, she immediately scampered away. He must be a very poor husband.

"Do not trouble yourself with her Yukimoto." He met his mother's steady gaze. "She has lost her way and is floundering about like a ubune in rough seas. She is a waste, a mistake and is totally unfit to be an Umezawa."

"Mother, you are too cruel." He turned away from her. 

"Only cowards hide from the truth Yukimoto." He closed his mind to her words as he left her alone in the room.

 

***

 

Sara simply refused to talk about it. She had been livid. Such a woman should be locked in an asylum, kept in a cage or stretched from a long rope until dead. As a mother, she preformed her duty and asked Shouda how he felt about the introduction after then took baths and ate sweet cakes and soy milk with the Shinoharas.

Shouda mentioned that Yuki-san was different in the house than at the club. He was happier at the club. He felt his grandfather was a nice man. Sara mentally questioned this, but didn't say anything. He said Kaoru-san reminded him of a mouse and that his grandmother would take some getting used to. He thought the house too large and museum-like, but mostly felt disappointment at not having time with his dad. When Shouda grew quiet she stroked his head and kissed him. Her pearl of wisdom that skirted her immediate feels while touching on the truth and giving encouragement?

"Beginning is always awkward and scary. Like when you came to me."

Shouda perked up and looked at her.

"The Shinoharas found you in the hallway on the floor."

"That's right, two weeks before you were born which, incidentally, I had all planned out. I found myself in doubled over in pain crouched in the hallway..."

"You should of went to hospital." He sounded just like his grandma Richards.

Sara cut her eyes at him, "You gonna let me tell this story?" He smiled. "Okay, so the Shinoharas, who almost never leave their apartment after dark, came out and discovered me."

"Sofu said his son whispered it to him while he sat in front of his shrine." Shouda interrupted again.

Sara blinked, "Really?" She had never known that.

"Yup."

"Back to my story. They called an ambulance and rode with me to hospital. I was afraid something was wrong with you, that you might die. I wasn't prepared for you to come to me early. At hospital I was wheeled around, poked, prodded, stripped and moved to another bed where my legs were stuck wide open like this." she spread her arms out and Shouda covered his eyes. "Then calmly coached in Japanese by a very politely medical team into giving birth, though he did have to move you around a bit in there."

"Awwww mom." He shook his head.

"Well, its the truth. Anyway, you came out a fine healthy baby boy. As white as a sheet with a head full of porcupine straight dusty brown hair."

"I looked like the milk man's baby." 

"What do you know about the milk man?" Sara turned to her son with a fake scowl.

Shouda grinned, "That's what grandma said."

"You just be careful about repeating what my mother says." She touched his nose and poked it. "My point is...what was my point?"

"Scary and awkward."

"Yes! It was scary and awkward in the beginning, but with a little trust and help from others I held in my arms the most precious little boy, the best thing that ever happened to me. It was love at first sight."

"I know, I have that affect on women."

"Aakkk!" She grabbed him and they rolled on the floor laughing ending up tangled in each others arms. "Things will end up as they should, don't worry Shouda."

"I love you mom."

 

***

 

Yuki closed the door to his flat. He wanted to be alone. What he really wanted was to call Sara and ask if he could come and see Shouda, but they needed time. She had been perfectly poised and restrained at the introduction. She was soft and kind yet firm and a bit mischievous. She really had not changed much. He remembered showing up at her small office after they had first met:

 

He parked his car along the street and eyed the slim alleyway, then looked at her card again. His business eye told him the location, though not the best, was well chosen. This part of the city was safe as well. He could see her sign from his car, Kami chō no hane (Paper butterfly Wings). Like all the other signs in the small space, it sat on the building vertically. He engaged the alarm on his car and entered the narrow street.

The door chimed as it opened and a few seconds later Sara appeared from another room in an apron marked with color and other debris. Her smile faltered slightly as she recognized him, then spread again with an impish tilt to the corners of her mouth. She untied the apron and placed it on a hook, then walked up to him and bowed with her hands clasped together in front.

"Welcome to Paper Butterfly Wings, please accept my assistance."

"This place is too small." He walked around her as she righted herself and shot him a look, which he ignored.

"How large does an establishment have to be to sell paper items?"

"It is boring."

"Quaint."

He turned to her, "It smells."

"Incense."

"So headstrong."

"So supercilious."

They smiled at one another and began to laugh. Then he straightened himself.

"What about lunch?"

"I have bentō. Would you like some?" She turned away from him.

"Did you make it?"

"Of course." She turned back mid-step.

"I thought we could go out somewhere." He leaned back and glanced out the window.

"If you wish to secure my presence at your disposal Umezawa-san, you must make an appointment." 

He walked over to where she stood by her desk. 

"Yuki."

"Yukimoto-san" she gave him a knowing look.

"Fine. Then every Tuesday and Thursday for the next four weeks." They stood challenging one each other for a few minutes, then she grabbed her agenda. He pointed at it. "Just write Yukimoto."

 

He could not remember what made him go to her office, but Sara had been worth it. She was always worth it. He made himself a short glass of whiskey and sat down on his black deer skin sofa. Shouda's album lay before him on a matching ottoman. It opened to a large black & white of her bare protruding belly. The light cast a soft glow across her skin. Below it in both English and Japanese was penned, ‘Shouda.' He drew an imaginary circle around her belly button with the very tip of his finger, then turned the page.

Shouda wrapped in a hospital blanket with Sara's lips pressed to his forehead, his eyes closed and his tiny fingers folded over on another. A fatter Shouda held up against a black vervet backdrop, naked like an offering in Sara's hands. His skin glowed peach against the black backdrop and his dusty brown hair spiked up like a troll. It was endearing and beautiful at the same time. Shouda's body folded up in Japanese printed material like a cone. His arms stuck out on either side and a small skull cap covering his head. He was darker and his eyes gazed wide eyed at the camera, a goofy half-smile on his face. A pair of weathered looking hands supported his head. 

He got up and pour himself another drink.

Shouda held up in Sara's arms, maybe a year or so old, his hair dark and curly, moving in to give her a kiss. Shouda leaning over a large Go block next to an elderly Japanese man whose hand gently supported his wobbly body. Shouda on the shoulders of a be-freckled older gentleman, both wore sunglasses. Shouda completely zonked out on the large brown bosom of a woman equally in slumber.

Yuki drowned his drink and then another. He looked back at the open album on the ottoman covered his face. He had lost so much and couldn't get it back. It was too painful. He couldn't look at the album anymore for the time being. He grabbed the bottle and swayed back to his bedroom.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Shouda hurried out of his shoes and into his house slippers before dropping his bag and charging into the apartment.

"Shouda, your bag. Be sure to change out of your uniform first!" Sara sighed and rolled her eyes. Her head hurt and her back ached from bending over her lab desk all afternoon. She was putting together the finishing touches on the third sample for her proposal.

Weddings were always difficult. She usually had to meet with the families of both the bride and the groom. Decisions were politely hashed out, deferences humbly glossed over. She had learned to pick up on Japanese tension over the years. At first she was clueless, gradually she learned the signs, but the hardest part was becoming sensitive to it. The culture was so hospitable that it was possible for her to barrel right over everyones wishes and make decisions. Problem was, they would all concede even if it was not to their taste.

She padded into the kitchen and depressed the start button on her rice maker before filling the dispenser with rice and clamping it down. She made short work of a few vegetables and some chicken, sautéing them soy sauce and garlic. Then heated some miso soup and dropped in a few cubes of tofu. An added an egg to the sauté and she pulled her pre-made salad with bean sprouts, seaweed and pickles from the fridge. She heard Shouda laugh.

"Shouda. Please set the table." 

"I'm talking to grandma." He called back.

"Do you or do you not wish to eat young man?" A few minutes later Shouda flew around the kitchen getting chopsticks, napkins, cups and glasses. "Be careful. Did you hang up?"

"I told her I'd call her back when we finished."

She filled two medium size bowls with rice, heaped a generous position of sauté on top and put the cover plate over it to keep it warm. She spooned miso soup into two small bowls and placing everything on a tray, headed out to the low dinning table. 

"When are we going to get a regular dining table?" Shouda sniffed the Domburi.

"What do you mean? One of the fantastic things about Japan is the intimate relationship one fosters with the floor."

 

***

 

It was getting late and Shouda was still talking to his grandparents. Sara walked into the living space and looked at his happy face staring at the computer screen.

"Shouda you need to bathe and go to bed you have school tomorrow. Say good night."

"Is that your mother?" A female voice asked sternly.

"Yes."

"Alright then, go bathe and let me talk to her."

"Yes ma'am. Love you." He made kissing noises at the monitor and hopped off down the hall. 

Sara sat down in front of the computer and looked at her moms round face. Her long dreads piled up on her head and glasses perched at the end of her nose. It softened when it saw her.

"Darren, Darren look, its our baby girl." Her mother's face got closer to the camera and she smiled. 

"Hi mom."

There was movement behind her. (You act like you don't see her every other day through Facetime. She looks the same as she did two days ago and two days before that.) Her fussy father's forehead pushed her mom over slightly and smiled into the camera. "Hey baby girl. You look tired. Japan isn't wearing you out is it? You can just hop a plane and come on home anytime you want. You know that right?"

Her other pushed him out of the way. "You've been telling her that for twelve years now."

"So what? Its just as true today as it was twelve years ago."

"Baby," she continued ignoring him, "what is this I hear about Shouda meeting his father and grandparents?"

(Your mother bout fell out the chair!)

Sara's shoulders sagged.

"What in the world were you thinking? How could you make a decision like that without consulting the family?" (She's a grown woman Percy.) "That man dropped you like a hot potato, left you defenseless in a foreign country."

"I wasn't defenseless. You didn't say that to Shouda, did you?" Sara sat up.

"I have more sense than that. So, tell me about it. What do you think? How was his family?"

(If they are smart people they recognized the value of my baby girl.)

"It went about as well as it could under the circumstances I guess."

"Darren, Darren did you hear that? I won't let that Japanese man and his family terrorized my baby in some foreign country. We have to buy us tickets." Her hand flew up in the air and she shook her head."

(Percy when are you going to get used to the fact that she can take care of herself)

"Said the man whose been telling you to come home for twelve years." She rolled her eyes.

Sara had to laugh.

"Mom, I'm not being terrorized. Everything is fine..." movement behind her mother caught her eye again, "what is dad doing?"

"Oh, he's working out on his Wii. He loves it."

(It checks my weight, helps keep me balanced and makes work all at the same time, and its fun.)

"Wow." Sara's eyebrows lifted.

"The tickets."

"I'm fine mom. Thank you for your support, but now is not a good time."

Her mother looked at her disbelievingly. "Well, all right, but Darren you keep an eye on the ticket prices."

(If she wants to know the prices to get home, tell her I've got ‘em memorized.)

Her mom looked at her and rolled her eyes.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Sara pulled up on the clamp screw and started twirling the rod around in a circle. Slowly the vise started to lift. The bamboo paper came into view breadcrumb brown and veiny. I looked perfect. She gently pulled it out and sat it on a metal plate where she burned the edges to a dark brown with a sauntering tool. Again she transferred it to her soft black shitajiki mat and secured it under a metal stick. She pulled out a sheet of paper with customer's name written in kanji and began to prepare the rest of her calligraphy set.

"President, you have a visitor. Umezawa Kaoru-san."

Sara smiled, "Thank you, would you check to see if there is fresh tea?" Sara stared at the table for a minute before lifting off her apron. She washed her hands and checked her appearance in a long mirror before walking out of her clinic. The short trip down the hall had her imagining all kinds of embarrassing scenes, yet she slid aside the panel and emerged with a smile.

"Welcome Umezawa-san." She bowed.

"Forgive the intrusion Richards-san." Kaoru bowed in response.

"Please come sit in my office." Sara moved towards a room with short panels separating it from the rest of the shop but not reaching the ceiling. It gave the appearance of privacy while maintaining the whole. Kaoru sat down as she observed the office. Sara's assistant came in with a tray of tea. She sat the two cups down silently and gave a half bow before leaving.

Sara sat attentively waiting for Kaoru to speak, on the inside she was wishing she could engage some type of hard protective coating like an armadillo. She had no idea what this poor woman was going to say. She could only imagine how hurt she must feel. 

Kaoru was the perfect Japanese doll. Her eyes dark and clear, her bone structure angular yet soft. Her nose button-like, her mouth small and pouty. Her skin glowed like soft ivory and her hair framed her face delicate before disappearing behind her ears.

"You have a very beautiful shop Sarua-san. It is the perfect location. I remember passing  and often times looking in at your window display. If I'm not mistaken I know a few of your clients, that is, I've seen your work." She raised her cup to her lips.

"Thank you, I..."

"What was it you fell in love with about my husband?" She looked at Sara so intensely, Sara wanted to hide her face, but she didn't. Instead, she blinked a few times then smiled weakly in resignation.

"Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Yes."

"Well," she thought a moment. "He was witty and pushy, but gentle and kind. He listened when I spoke, though he did not always answer. I was attracted to his confidence and when he was at ease, we could be together for hours without saying a word, but were so keenly aware of the other that we never felt alone. I could learn from him and I admired his opinions." She sighed.

"I never saw any of that in my husband. Not while we dated or after we were married." She sat her cup down, "Maybe if I did, things would have been different." Sara didn't know how to reply. "Did he tell you that I'm sterile? I can bear him no children." They stared at each other. "I am defeated by you," she looked down, "and Shouda."

Sara launched out of chair without thinking. "What do you mean defeated? Kaoru-san, life is not fare. My father calls it a bad tempered woman who can never be appeased." She walked around her desk and sat in the empty chair beside Kaoru. "But, the only one who can defeat you, is you. We are each entities with the ability to make decisions, reason and problem solve. We control our triumphs and defeats."

 

Kaoru looked at the woman sitting in front of her with confusion. "I did not choose to be sterile. I do not want it." She fought to control her emotions.

"I know that, no one has the right to blame you for it either. I'm sorry this has happened to you, but only you can turn this around." 

Kaoru was caught up in the compassion emanating from this woman, this foreigner to whom she had divulged more of her feelings than she had even her closest friend.

"How?" It whispered between them and then became contemptuous. "Adoption? It wouldn't be mine. Worse, we would have to choose one from China. It probably wouldn't even be Japanese. Helping those less fortunate? Yuki does this and it irritates me to distraction. He constantly talks about them and goes off to play with them. Its degrades him and me if I were to go with him. He's always trying and trying and I just wish he would leave me alone!" She realized she was standing as the room became distorted with her tears. 

The next thing she knew, she was being embraced. Her arms stayed rigidly by her sides, but she welcomed it. Lay her head on the offered shoulder and wept. Wept the tears that had built up over with the passing of days, season, years. 

"Listen to me Kaoru-san. The bird that flies with the wind at its back, arrives with energy to complete the task at its destination. Fighting it won't help. Talk to your husband. Find something you enjoy doing and immerse yourself in it. Figure out all the positive things in your life and meditate on them. Don't give control over your happiness to anyone or anything. You hold on to that power." She felt Sara's squeeze and then tissue paper was gently placed in her hand. She almost wept again, but instead dabbed at her eyes and nose until she felt composed enough to lift her head.

She was surprised to see Sara wiping her own eyes and she looked down.

"I have made a raving fool of myself."

"Not at all." They stood a moment in silence. 

"The proverb about the bird, where do you learn that?"

"Umezawa Yukimoto told me that once." Kaoru looked everywhere but at Sara. "Would you like to see the rest of the shop?"

Kaoru brightened, "Yes, I would like that."

 

End Notes:

I appreciate your taking the time to read this story. I really do enjoy reading your thoughts.

Thanks!

Yon (4) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

At last! Sorry it took so long ladies, but I thank you for your patience and reminders. I love your enthusiasm. It is very motivational.

If you didn't notice, I added cast photos. I have two added below as well. I also changed the story Summery. So.....

Please excuse errors in translation/explanation/usage

Ramen-ya - a ramen restaurant(ish)

Dōtonbori - famous tourist district in Ōsaka

Asahi - a brand of Japanese beer

Shari - cooked vinegared rice

Itadakimasu - "Let's eat" or something to that effect

Batata vada - potato and other vegetables dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried

Naan - flat bread brushed with ghee or butter, cooked in a clay oven (similar to peta, but better due to the buttery melt in your mouth goodness)

   

please excuse writing errors too :(

 

Yuki took a deep breath before hitting the chime. He had nervously called Sara a few days before to ask to see Shouda. She had readily agreed. She was making this too easy for him. 

Today they were going for Ramen as promised. His body temperature rose and his heart raced, he was too old to be this nervous. The door flew open and Sara stood in front of Yuki with a smile. He subconsciously eased.

"Hello Yukimoto," they shared an informal bow, she had dropped the honorific. "Come in please. Shouda will be ready in a moment." She leaned closer. "He has changed his outfit four times." They grinned at each other and Sara shook her head. He took his time observing her. This was one of the things he liked about Sara, she was always ready to laugh and enjoy life. He felt guilty.

"Yuki-san!" Shouda ran up and gave Yuki a very enthusiastic hug. He was both caught off guard and touched. He gave his son a squeeze and rustled his hair. Shouda looked very happy to see him. "We will go to eat Ramen, right?" He pointed at Yuki.

"Yes, as much as you want."

 

Shouda could hardly contain his excitement. He started talking as soon as Sara closed the door behind them. As they walked down the hall, road the elevator and exited out the building, he informed Yuki of everything he knew about living there. When he saw Yuki's car, he expressed all his desires to have one and asked every question possible about Yuki's as they road through the streets. When they parked near the ramen-ya restaurant they were in the middle of discussing the martial arts club tournament fast approaching. Yuki pushed the door open and they walked into the small space.

"Wow, I go for ramen sometimes with sofu Shinohara, but mostly with mom. Sofu Shinohara likes the ramen stand near our apartment building." Yuki guided him to the bar. "Did you know mom really likes ramen? She calls it ‘comfort food.'"

Yuki sat beside his son in thought. That phrase sounded familiar.

 

The back of Yuki's hand glided across the cold futon and he opened his eyes. Night covered his view of Ōsaka like a dense warm blanked. Stillness pinched at his ears and then movement. He lifted up and walked out into his apartment where he encountered a rich smell that led him to his kitchen. There Sara stood in his pajama shirt in front of his stove arranging something on a plate. Her back was to him.

"What are you making?"  

She jumped slightly then laughed.

"Comfort food."

"Ah, English. Then this is from the West."

"Would you like to try some? They are called pancakes and they taste especially good at this hour." She turned to him with a plate stacked with round thin pieces of bread.

"At this hour?" He glanced at the clock, 1:45 a.m.. He watched her skeptically as she cover each cake in butter and pulled out a bottle with ‘Maple Syrup' printed on it. She poured the dark liquid over the buttered bread, cut through the soft sponginess with a fork and lifted it to his lips. It smelled sweet.

"No?" she put the portion in her mouth and chewed. She then leaned over the table and kissed him softly on the lips. As she drew back he licked his lips and tasted something very sweet. It was quite good. "How about now?"

He mirrored the slow smile that spread across her face, then cleared his throat.

"I think I will try some."

 

He smiled at the memory.

"Yes, pancakes at 1:45 in the morning."

"You know?" Shouda smiled illuminatingly. "Anything that helps you feel fat and well loved. That is the best time to eat pancakes too. They really do not taste as good at other times. Sometimes when there is no school the next day, mom wakes me up in the middle of the night and we eat them."

"She introduced them to me as well. What do you say we have ramen Tokyo style?" Shouda agreed and he ordered their bowls and two drinks. When he turned back to Shouda, he was regarding Yuki solemnly.

"Yuki-san, you have always been very nice to me, so I am confused." His little brows knitted.

"About what, are you confused Shouda?"

"I don't understand why you left mom. I mean, she says she loved you and wanted to stay with you, but that you did not." Yuki hoped his face reflected a calmness he didn't feel. "I asked her why and she said it was for you to answer."

Yuki could not have been more floored. He was hoping to spend some quality time with his son. Time in which they could create happy memories, become better friends. However, Yuki was his father and Shouda, though eager, was foremost his mother's son. There was an accounting to be rendered. He could side step it with Sara because she was an adult, for how long he was not sure, but he could not with Shouda.

"Shouda, I cared for Sarua-san very much, but I had family obligations. Of course, if I had know about you, things would have been different."

"You mean responsibilities." Shouda nodded. "Sofu Shinohara says they are very important, but you had a responsibility to my mother. She loved you."

Yuki squirmed, "At the time I thought my responsibility to my family was greater." he looked down at his bowl of steaming ramen, "I am sorry Shouda." He felt a warm hand touch his shoulder.

"I understand...I think." Shouda turned to his own bowl and picking up his chopsticks twirled them in the noodles and lifted a big knot of them to his mouth. "Your mother is different."

Yuki turned to him in surprise, but Shouda only slurped the long stringy noodles into his mouth bit by bit, keeping them contained with his chopsticks.

"My mother?"

Shouda swallowed a cheek full of noodles. 

"She would have other things she wished for you to do and would be noisy until you did them." Yuki laughed and Shouda looked embarrassed. "I am sorry, was that mean?"

"No," Yuki laughed some more. "Perhaps a little disrespectful," he scolded playfully, "but not mean." He ruffled Shouda's hair. "It shows a great deal of insight."

"Please do not tell mom, but," he leaned closer and Yuki followed suit, "grandma Richards is a little like that too though not as bad."

They shared a conspiring laugh.

 

"Yuki-san?" 

They were walking through Dōtonbori looking in the touristy shops.

"Yes, Shouda."

"Do you mind if I call you dad."

Yuki put his arm around his son's shoulder.

"It would give me great pleasure for you to do so."

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Sara eyed the numbers neatly written in the ledger. She really should be running the embossing machine. She had one hundred and fifty birthday invitations to finish. This reminded her she still had yet to finish the drawing for the embossing stamp she wanted to have made, not to mention the paper dye needed to be mixed and... What all this really meant was she hated doing bookkeeping or at least would rather be crafting.

She sighed.

"President, you have a visitor, M___-san."

Sara looked at her watch. She knew she had an appointment but she didn't recall it being M___-san. 

"Thank you. I will be there shortly." She did a double check in the mirror and left the clinic. 

M___-san was the principle lawyer in the firm which launched her into the public eye. He stood in her showroom with another man pointing to some of her displays. His companion definitely was not Japanese. He had a healthy physique and shaggy brown hair. She took a quick look at her appointment book at her assistant's desk. No, he wasn't her next appointment. She looked at her assistant who looked back and shook her head discreetly.

"M___-san, welcome." She gave a low bow. He returned it and introduced his associate.

"Richards-san, please allow me to introduce my colleague Kamir Dubashi. He is here from Mumbai, India." His cell phone began to ring. "You will excuse me while I take this." Both Sara and Kamir nodded.

"Do you speak Japanese?" Sara asked cautiously.

"Only enough to get by, but M___-san assures me you speak English very well." All of this he said in English, Sara switched over.

"Yes, I'm from America."

"Excellent." He extended his hand and she shook it. "I have been in Japan for three days and feel like Alice in Wonderland." 

"How long will you be here for?"

"I'm not sure. The company I represent has business with the company he represents so it depends on negotiations." He looked around at the showroom. "This is a nice shop you have here." 

"Thank you. If you don't mind me asking, how did a company from India and a company from Japan get together?" Sara took in his rather handsome appearance. 

"Mumbai is a sister city to Yokohama. The company I represent is broadening its reach."

M___-san joined them with many apologies. An appointment was made for lunch and they left.

 

***

 

The small sushi bar was more like a hole in the wall than a restaurant. It wasn't one of those large bars with the conveyer belt that rotated dishes in oblong, square or other form of polygon. It was an authentic sushi bar. Upon entering, there was a maître d' stand to the left, hooks to hang jackets and coats to the right along the wall, and a few steps in a semi-short bar with ten stools. All the ingredients sat in square tubs behind a protective plastic partition hooded by another flat piece of plastic. The pokerfaced cook stood behind the bar awaiting instructions.

A chain of signs mounted on the wall behind him informed the customer of all the delectable items he could serve over rice.

Yuki sat down with Sara beside him.

"This is an interesting place to figure out what we will do about Shouda." 

Yuki watched her take in the little place with a smile. He knew she liked things like this.

"This is the best sushi bar in Ōsaka, plus I called this morning and everything is fresh. We should share an Asahi as we used to?" 

Sara nodded her approval.

An older gentleman came and placed two small bowls into which he pour a little soy sauce, two short glasses into which he divided a bottle of Asahi beer and chopsticks. First Yuki ordered snapper. The cook arranged it on a square of shari and placed it atop the plastic hood. 

"Itadakimasu." They said together. They picked up their chopsticks, plucked the sushi from the hood, dipped it in soy sauce and took a bite. They tasted salmon, clam and eel before finally getting down to business.

"How will we proceed, Sara? I am unsure of what to do." Yuki finished his beer and ordered another.

 

Sara felt the ridiculous urge to run her fingers through his hair. A vulnerable Yuki was something she was not used to.

"Well, you could take him on the weekends, or if you want real experience at parenting, he could stay with you during the week. Though I'm not sure about him spending too much time with your mother." Frankly the idea terrified her. The last thing she needed was that overbearing woman confusing her son.

"I have thought of this too. I plan to stay at my flat. Obviously my mother and father will want to see Shouda. Perhaps we can restrict it to weekends. Shouda has expressed to me his feelings about my mother. I do not wish him to be uncomfortable."

Sara wondered what her son had disclosed, but was not sure Yuki would tell her if she inquired.

"He did not say anything unkind, did he?" She could venture this far.

"No, nothing, but it was not hard to understand this point. I do not blame him." He hesitated. "I know her ways, I have felt her oppressiveness and let it dominate me to my detriment. I will not subject Shouda to this. He is an open, happy carefree boy and I wish that he should remain so." Yuki looked at Sara. "You have done well despite me. Thank you."

Sara's emotions were bouncing silently around the room like a ping-pong ball. She had to look away, she did not want him to see. She felt a mixture of compassion, anger and relief. Annoyance, forgiveness and self-loathing. She was happy that he would do this for Shouda, even if he did the opposite regarding herself. But this wasn't about her, not anymore.

"You are welcome." She looked up at the cook and ordered omelette and shredded ginger. She picked up a few pieces with her chopsticks and shook them onto the sushi then pulled it of the hood. She felt his intense gaze.

"So, I would like him to help me prepare his room and if he will stay, perhaps we could begin the arrangement every other weekend."

"It is a good idea not to disrupt his routine too much while he is in school."

"Speaking of school," Yuki sighed. "Out of all my mother's requests, I have agreed to mention the Academy. Mother feels Shouda should attend."

"How do you feel Yuki?" Another round of beer was poured.

"I studied there as did my father and grandfather and his father. It is a family tradition. I have thought much about it and I would like him to enroll, but it must be something we both agree on."

Sara had to admit not knowing what to do in this case. Shouda was happy at his present school, but preferred to be with herself or the Shinoharas. It wasn't as if he had developed any important friendships yet. Also, she had to admit that Yuki's inflation of pride, as slight as it was, when he spoke, made her happy. If only things had turned out differently. 

She stilled. Then she might have Mrs. Umezawa for a mother-in-law.

"How much would it cost?" she needed to come back to reality. "Do you think his grades are high enough? Where is it located?"

"Yes, the cost is covered under my families donations. We will not have that to worry about. I think Shouda is a very intelligent young boy. He tells me his grades are good and I am confident he will rise to whatever academic challenge that is presented. The location is not far, and I can arrange to have a car pick him up if you wish." Her face must have registered her displeasure. "He can ride the subway as well."

"No, only, I take him to school and pick him up. My parents did the same with both me and my brother Ward."

"I understand. Then if he goes to the Academy, we shall do the same. I will arrange for you to take tour. We will go together so you can see for yourself." 

She could feel him doing it again, getting inside her head. Sara repeated to herself that this was for Shouda.

"I would like that."

He smiled.

"Very good." 

She tried not to observe him as he ordered octopus and wasabi for them.

 

Yuki tried not to wipe the stray rice from her bottom lip. He was a mixture of conflicting emotions, shame, happiness, fear and excitement. It had been so long since he sat comfortably with someone eating sushi and drinking beer. The bar was neither hip nor trendy and neither one cared.

They eased out of the bar into the crowed street.

"Yuki do you feel that? It is a feeling one can only experience in Japan."

He observed her form as she took in the people and signs, the hustle and bustle and the night sky.

"Overcrowding?" he arched his brows.

She laughed. "No. There are crowds in New York and crowds in Rome, people run around the streets of London and São Paulo." She stepped towards him. "Only Japan has this kind of noble energy, this mixture of confined freedom."

"You love Japan."

"I do."

Yuki caught her chin in his thumb and forefinger and leaned it. He really wasn't doing it on purpose. Even as he did, every bell, light and whistle in his head was telling him he shouldn't, he had no right. Sara was not his, he had a wife.

 

Sara was being totally stupid. She felt good and free, because of the beer most likely. They had drunk their fare share. Somehow it had made the situation more tolerable, or maybe less complicated was a better description. Now this.

The moment his lips touched hers she missed them. The moment she felt his nose rub against her cheek she remembered. She used to love these things. Eight years ago she would have cupped his face, forced his mouth open. 

Eight years ago...

Eight years ago he wasn't married, he was engaged. Engaged to Kaoru. He dumped her like she meant nothing. Never a call, never an apology, an explanation. She was totally stupid.

She pushed away from him her head and he body totally at war. He looked hurt and apologetic his lips glistening in the street lights.

"Yuki, no. How could you?" She backed away from him. "I will not, not again. You are married." She turned, all she could think about was running away. Putting as much distance between him and her as she could. She hurried past people as she heard him call her. She started to jog. Sara ran down into the subway and jumped on the first train she saw. She cared not where it was going, she just needed to get away.

This was about Shouda. For Shouda she would endure his presence and his family. For Shouda she would speak to him and work with him, for Shouda. Her feelings and emotions long repressed were to complicated, she rubbed her forehead.

Still, the lingering feeling of his lips moving against hers played the key, the key that released other memories. Wonderful memories of Yuki.

 

Matsushima had to be one of the most beautiful spots in Japan, though it never quite matched its artistic renditions. On the northern coast of Japan, Matsushima was a small town famous for its tuft of islands that dotted out into the sea. They were the subject of many drawings and paintings, even poetry.

"They are always drawn more dramatically than they look." Sara sat in a small fishing boat with Yuki behind her manipulating the ores.

"Ah....that is because....the beauty is more in the production.....than the....product. It is more the feeling....than the reality." Yuki huffed as he took a break from rowing.

Sara turned around and snickered, then straightened her face.

"You are right Yuki. The feeling of beauty and appreciation is evident in the drawings and matches ones feelings exactly when they look at the reality." He nodded. "You know, we could call the rental stand and have them send someone out to retrieve us Yuki." She leaned over and dipped her fingers in the sea. Yuki grunted. He had been trying to row them back to the shore for the last half hour. Sara had been trying to ignore the fact that they were going around in circles. "Are you sure you are rowing correctly?"

"Sarua, I should be able to get this little boat back to shore without difficulty." His voice was more calm than usual which meant he was irritated. 

She stood, stepped over to him and sat down. "Yes, Yuki." Taking his face in her palms, she kissed his lips, then his cheek, then his neck at his jaw.

He pulled out his cell phone.

A half hour later and they were being pulled to shore by men rowing two similar boats to their own. Yuki sat hunched over with Sara hugging him from behind.

"Thank you for bringing me here." She whispered in his ear.

He sighed and she smiled.

 

Sara began to cry silent tears. Yuki was a bastard!

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Sara put a piece of foam in the bottom of the medium size decorative paper bag and placed a fiftieth anniversary scrapbook and matching guestbook side by side over it. The clients had loved what she did with their keepsakes, photos and whatnots in the album. It was to be displayed at the anniversary party along with the guestbook. She gently pressed tissue between the two items and closed the top of the paper bag with sticker of a soft fluttering yellow butterfly. She walked out of the clinic and opened the panel to Kamir milling about the showroom. They smiled to each other and she lifted her hand before stepping into her office.

Many bows were exchanged as the satisfied clients took the bag and she gently guided them to her assistant who discreetly reminded them of the remaining balance on the purchase. Sara approached Kamir.

"Hello." She bowed slightly as her clients left. 

"They look very happy."

"I believe I can say that they were." She looked at him quizzically.

"You're wondering why I am here."

"Yes." She smiled.

"Lunch."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Lunch. I seriously don't think I can sit through another lunch in Japanese." He put his hands together and his head wobbled slightly. "Please help me."

Sara laughed, "They let you go out alone?"

"I told them I had plans and I did. I had plans to come here and beg you to have lunch with me."

She had eaten lunch together with M__-san and Kamir as planned, an interesting experience with her playing quasi-interpreter. He was a happy fellow, very considerate and open. Nothing like Yuki.

"Okay, let me check." She walked over to her assistant and checked her appointment book. She was open. Great. She needed a distraction. Yuki had called to apologize for the other night and they had toured the Academy. Both situations very tense. She found suppressing her feelings of hurt and betrayal harder each time they spoke. This upset her because she desperately wanted an amicable working relationship with him, for Shouda's sake. That was why she was jumping at this opportunity. She needed balance.

 

"Are you serious?" Kamir turned in a circle. The ramen-ya reminded him quite a bit of some places back in India, only everything was Japanese. It was small crowded together and warm. There were two or three tables in the middle and a bar that wrapped against the outer walls. Sara sat a table.

"You haven't been to a ramen-ya yet?"

He sat down and looked at the woman across from him with a smile.

"Just wasn't what I was expecting."

She looked startled.

"Would you like to go somewhere else?"

"No, this is great, fantastic. What do we eat?" He shrugged out of his suit jacket and placed it over the back of his chair.

"Ramen noodles. You can get them thick or thin in miso, which is a fish paste," his brows lowered, "but its soupy. In a pork or chicken stock with mushrooms, egg, cabbage, tofu, pork slice and nori, that's seaweed."

"I take it they don't have goat."

"What?" She laughed. He liked it.

"Or lamb?"

"No lamb, nor batata vada, nor naan, which is absolutely to dye for by the way."

"Ah, you know Indian cuisine?"

"A very little, I accompanied my younger brother Ward there once. He is a international model." She ordered for them both at his request.

Kamir leaned forward, "Tell me your favorite part of India." He watched her screw her lips up and lower her brow in thought. She was too adorable for words. He had learned from the Japanese firm he was currently dealing with, that she had appeared at their door when they were in dire need of help. She had recently started her business in Ōsaka and was showing some samples to garner clients. They had been impressed with her. One, because she spoke Japanese very well for a foreigner. Two, because she carried herself with dignity and grace. Three, because her samples were excellent and four, because they were in dire need. Sitting across from her, he had to agree that she was very unique.

"The tea gardens in Munnar and cruising the Kumarakom Backwaters. Though the Himalayas are nothing to baulk at."

"How long were you there?"

"A week or so. He had several shoots and we took some extra time to sightsee."

"I'm impressed."

"You shouldn't be, I initially had no desire to go. My parents wouldn't let my brother go alone and neither one could manage it, so I went. It was a good opportunity for him. I couldn't deny him and it turned out to be an amazing trip." The two bowls were brought out and placed before them. 

Kamir picked up his chopsticks and fumbled around with them. Sara laughing made him raise his head.

"Here, let me help you." She rearranged the thin strips of wood in his fingers. "Put the bottom one in the cradle of your thumb, like this and grab the top between your pointer and middle finger and your thumb." She held his wrist. "Now, move your top two finger up and down."

He followed her instructions clumsily, but noticed an instant improvement.

"You're a good teacher."

"My son, I have plenty of practice." She let go of his hand and began moving her own in her ramen bowl.

It dawned on him there was a lot he didn't know about Sara.

"What do you say, after this, lets ride in a rickshaw? I want to see how they compare to the those in Mumbai."

"Hummm?" Sara looked at him round eyed with a mouth full of noodles.

 

End Notes:

Be sure to check out the cast photos and I should have the next chapter up soon!

Thank you ladies!

Go (5) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

A promis is a promise. I said it would be soon so here it is.

I don't think I need to explain/translate anything.

Thank you for your wonderful/hilarious/serious reviews! :)

 

 

Shouda sat nervously dwarfed by the enormous high back chair. He didn't understand what was going on. Where was his mom? Where was his dad? Strange people offered him juice and sweet cakes, which he refused. A man smelling of silk and tobacco was trying to make him try on a strange uniform.

"Come young master Umezawa. I must see how this fits. Please try it on."

"My name is Shouda Richards and I have a uniform." He sat erect his hands gripping both armrests. His feet dangling a smidgen above the floor. Where was his mom?

Mrs. Umezawa breezed into the room with a smile.

"What? He has not dressed yet?" She turned to Shouda. "You must change your clothes young Shouda. You are going to attend the same school as your father and grandfather and his father before that. I want to take you today to introduce you to the Director myself. You will look very affluent in this uniform." She smiled sweet enough, but Shouda could hear the demand in her voice.

"I have a school Umezawa-san. I have a uniform. Mother took me to my school this morning and she will be waiting for me when it is over. I must go back. Please take me back." He began to panic thinking of his mom waiting for him at the gate like she always did. Rain or shine, sweltering or freezing, she was always positioned at the entrance of the school with a smile, a hug and sometimes a treat. "Please Umezawa-san, she will worry for me."

"I will inform your mother of your whereabouts, I promise you. She will not be surprised for she and Yukimoto discussed the matter and even visited the school."

"She did not speak to me about going to a new school." He said defiantly. His mother always talked to him about things. This wasn't right. He needed to talk to his mother. He could feel the water begin to fill the bottom of his eyes. He fought to keep it at bay. "I have a school. I have a school."

"What is the meaning of this?" Shouda looked up and saw Mr. Umezawa at the door. He slid off the chair and hurried to him.

"Please, I must speak to my mother. I have a school. My mother will be waiting for me at the gait. She will worry."

 

Mr. Umezawa bent down to his grandson and patted him on the shoulders.

"Dear, please tell me you did not take this child out of his school in the middle of the day and bring him here without his mother knowing." He looked at his wife.

"You heard Yukimoto, they toured the school and she is not opposed to the idea. I am moving things along. We cannot wait forever. Besides, I want to introduce Shouda to the Director myself." She walked towards them. "All right Shouda, put on the uniform. We must go." She clapped her hands a few times.

Shouda stood closer to him.

"I will not go because my mother did not tell me to go. I have a school." Shouda balled his hands into fists. Mr. Umezawa patted them.

"You have heard the young master dear. He will not go. We will wait and speak to Yuki and his mother." He gave Should a smile and saw him visibly relax.

"You wish to call Yukimoto? I will call Yukimoto." with that, she exited the room.

He turned to his grandson.

"You are very brave Shouda, but do not worry, I will not allow her to force you if you do not wish to go."

Unexpectedly, Shouda threw his arms around his neck and squeezed. Umezawa was reminded of his own son at this age and sighed. The mistakes people make without realizing. He always had his mind on other things. His moments with Yuki had been rare. Time had maybe given him a second change. He would not fail Shouda as he did Yuki. Could it be that he could mend his broken relationship with is son?

 

***

 

"I feel so bad." Kamir opened the door for Sara to pass before him.

"You wanted to ride in a rickshaw." She gave him a pointed look and passed by.

"I know, but the guy was sweating buckets. Ugh! Do you think I gave him a big enough tip?" he trailed behind her concerned.

"Yes, Kamir, you gave him more than enough." She laughed and stopped short. 

"Hello sister Sara." Ward came up to her and gave her one of his famous bony bear hugs.

"Ward, what are you doing here?" She gave him a brief hug back. She smelt a Darren Percy collaboration.

"I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd look you up." He gave her a peck on the cheek and then looked at Kamir. "Will you ever attract anything besides foreign bodies? He's a handsome foreign body though." He whispered the last.

"Hi, I'm Ward, Sara's baby brother and you are?" He held out his hand.

"Kamir Dubashi."

"Nice to meet you." Sara started to open her mouth.

"President, you have a call from Shouda's school."

Sara's frown deepened. Was he okay, did something happen?

"Hello, this is Sara Richards."

(Richards-san, thank you for taking the call. This is the Director. We just wanted to inform you that all of Shouda's transfer papers are ready, we will send them by currier to your office. It was a pleasure having Shouda in our school and we wish him well at the Academy.)

"You said transfer papers?" Sara could feel her temperature begin to rise, steadily, like active mercury in a thermometer.

(Yes, Umezawa-san arrived this morning and personally informed us of the transfer. She requested everything done as soon as possible. She also took Shouda with her...) Sara heard nothing more.

"Thank you very much Director for your assistance in this matter." She hoped her voice was calm and professional.

(It was my pleasure.)

She hung up the phone to complete and total silence. When she looked at her assistant, a startled young woman stared back at her. When she faced her brother, he was covering his mouth.When she turned to Kamir he seemed unsure whether he should step closer or back away. This made her smile. His frown only deepened. 

She shook her head.

"I'm sorry, I have to go. I have to go get my son." She turned to her assistant. "Would you please see to my appointments. Please tell them that I have a family emergency and give them my humble apologies. Several of the orders are done and waiting in the clinic. You may give them to the clients."

"Yes, President."

Sara shook her head again and made a dash for the door. If ever there was a time for the Lord to show his mightiness, now was it. If he didn't he would be gathering Mrs. Umezawa to heaven in a hot minute.

"Sara!" She turned to see Kamir running behind her. "What's the matter? Is something wrong with your son?"

"There better not be." She turned back around and marched on.

"Sara, where are you going?" 

She didn't have time for him right now. She hailed a cab. When one pulled up, she jumped in, Kamir slid in beside her. Ward kind of dived in behind him. The two men exchanged looks.

"Sara, I know this is unorthodox, but I am concerned for someones safety. Mostly yours, but at this point I'm not sure." She felt Kamir's gaze.

She moved to the edge of her seat. "Could you please go faster?"

 

***

 

Kaoru opened the door to silent confusion. Silent that is, besides Mrs. Umezawa. The servants ran around like ants. Mrs. Umezawa was apologizing to an older gentleman. If she wasn't mistaken, that was her favorite taylor. They walked passed as though she was invisible. This she was used to. She walked further into the house and saw a pensive young Shouda sitting on the couch with his grandfather. She walked into the room and looked around. Sara was not there.

"Hello Shouda." She smiled and walking to him extended her hand. He was confused at first, but grabbed it with a weak smile. "Have you been here long?" His small smile fell from his face and he shrugged. "Have you had something to eat?"

"No."

"You should eat something." She sympathized with the poor boy.

"I am not hungry."

 "How about a bowl of miso? It is not heavy and it will be quick to make and eat." She kneeled down and touched his sorrow filled face. He nodded in agreement. "Good." Kaoru went herself to ask for and bring it back to him. When she returned he was still sitting rigidly by his grandfather with his little hand on Mr. Umezawa's arm. She handed him the bowl and he devoured its contents, but when she asked if he wanted more. He quietly declined.

Mrs. Umezawa bustled back into the room. He tensed.

"This is most distressing indeed. I already informed the Director we would come by and now to have to cancel the meeting. You should let me take him Umezawa." She paced in front of them.

"No." He responded calmly. "You said you have called Yukimoto?"

"Yes"

"We will wait."

"And my mother? Did you call my mother as you promised?" Shouda looked up at his grandmother expectantly. Kaoru noticed that even the older lady melted.

"I have requested it done."

Shouda retreated back into unhappiness.

The front door banged open and Yuki burst into the room a few seconds later. He was totally disheveled.

"Shouda."

The young boy hurried to his father and hugged him tightly.

"Dad."

Kaoru watched the touching scene as Yuki held his son, enveloped him in his arms, cradled him. She could not give him that, but she did not seem to mind at this moment. Shouda was a special because his mother was special. She and Yuki liked Shouda for different reasons, but she did not feel threatened by it or even embarrassed by it. She smiled meekly.

Yuki opened his eyes and raised them to hers. She maintained contact.

 

For the first time in who knows how long, Yuki's wife made and maintained eye contact with him. He was delightfully surprised. He gave her a small smile and turned his attention to his mother.

"Mother I could not believe, when you told me over the phone that Shouda was here, that you would do such a thing."

"You said that you and Sara had..."

"I did not inform you that any decision had been made. We went only to look. You should not have done this." He tried to stand buy Shouda would not let go.

"I want my mother."

The chime began to clank repeatedly with such force that everyone cringed. A servant hurried to the door.

"Where is my son?" Sara's distress was clearly audible.

Yuki felt Shouda let go.

"Mom!" He ran toward the door and right into a seriously angry Sara Richards.

 

"Shouda." He almost crawled up her body into her arms. He was a little too big for this but she didn't care. She hugged and squeezed him with all her might and even peppered him with kisses. "Are you okay baby?" To hell with Japanese.

"Yes, mom."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." He pulled back, the smile on his face rivaling the sun. "Grandpa Umezawa sat with me and Kaoru-san gave me something to eat." His stomach growled on cue.

"You're still hungry." She laughed. 

"Uncle Ward!" Shouda squirmed from her arms and ran to his uncle.

 

It was then that Yuki notice the two strange men standing behind Sara. One was tall, broad and dressed in a very expensive suit. The other was thin in lightweight slim slacks and an equally airy three quarter sleeve sweater. His son embraced the young uncle fondly.

"Ward do you mind taking Shouda to the taxi?"

"Of course. It was nice meeting you all." He waved.

"Forgive me," Sara was speaking in Japanese again. "May I present my younger brother Ward and my friend Kamir Dubashi." She turned to the two men, "Shouda's father Umezawa Yukimoto and his parents and wife Kaoru."

"We should do lunch." Ward said in English. Sara waved him away. Shouda waved before dragging Ward out of the house.

 

There was total and complete silence while Sara rubbed her forehead.

 

"Sarua-san, you understand I just wanted to introduce him to the Director of the Academy. No harm done." Mrs. Umezawa chose to speak first.

"Who gave you permission to take my son out of school?" Sara could hardly contain her voice.

"I assumed that since..."

"Who? Tell me please. Did Yukimoto? Did you speak to me about it? Who? Because I am trying desperately to understand what would make you think that you had the right to take my son anywhere without my permission?"

"Sarua-san you are overreacting." Mrs. Umezawa spoke with less conviction.

Sara lifted her hand to keep her from saying anything else.

"So you believe it is okay for me to come into your house and take something of great value to you without asking? Your wedding ring perhaps? A family heirloom? A keepsake with unfathomable sentimental value?"

"Shouda is not your possession he belongs to the family."

"That is where you are wrong Umezawa-san, he belongs to me." She slapped her hand against her chest. "I carried him for nine months, I suffered through a difficult labor, I gave birth to him, he suckled my breast, I provided his food, clothing and shelter for eight years, I provided love, instruction and discipline, me. Not you, not this family, me." She was on the verge of tears. "If you ever want to see my son again, you will apologize to me and to Shouda and you will repeat these words. ‘I will respect your decisions Sarua-san, I will not be presumptuous as I have been in the past and I will not do anything regard my grandson without permission from either you or Yukimoto.' I hope you remember them because I will not repeat myself again." Sara glared into the eyes of Yuki's mother who glared back. Umezawa-san' flinched first, her eyebrows lifted ever so slightly and she very briefly glanced at some point in Sara's eyebrows or temple before regaining eye contact.

"I did not mean any harm." Was all she said in a defensive tone.

"Mother." Yuki stepped up.

"Maybe not, but now Shouda has a deep dislike for this house and possibly even you." Sara was finished. "Thank you Kaoru, for taking care of my son." This she said before exiting the room with Kamir in tow. 

 

Yuki followed as well. He was rather annoyed at the stranger who had attached himself to Sara. In the front hall he stopped her.

"Sarua, please."

She turned to him and Kamir exited the door after a brief glance at the two of them.

"I am sorry."

"You are infinitely sorry Yukimoto." she lashed at him as quietly as she could. "Are you not yet tired of being sorry?" She cover her mouth and took a breath. "Yuki to say sorry is very fine, but over time it looses its value if one does not learn from having to say it." She looked as though she were pleading with him. Her eyes shiny. She looked away.

"It will not happen again, I promise..."

"Okay, okay thank you." She backed away from him. "Handle it Yuki." Then she walked out of the house.

Yuki cursed himself ten times over before stalking back to the room where everyone still remained.

"Mother." He barked as he entered the room.

"Yukimoto please do not scold me. I think I have been through enough. We will wait until she calms, then try again." She sighed impatiently.

"We will do nothing of the kind. You will go to Saru-san and you will repeat those words and beg her apology or you will not see Shouda." He spoke clearly and firmly.

"Yukimoto," she came to him and touched his chest. "She was distraught, surely she did not mean for us to take her so seriously. I know best..."

"No. You will go and apologize. Even if she was not serious, though I believe she was, even if she does calm down and forgive you on her own, you will say them because I require it."

"Yukim..."

"I have made myself quite clear. If you will not do it, then I will keep you from seeing him." His attention shifted. "Kaoru."

"Yes, Yuki."

"Will you come with me please." He reached out his hand and she walked to him and took it. He felt an enormous sense of pride as he turned his back on his mother and walked out of the room with his wife.

 

 

Mr. Umezawa finally stirred.

"Well, my dear." He stood up from his couch and straightened his apparel.

"You." She turned to him. "You who did nothing to help me. You sat there and let that woman upbraid me in front of everyone."

He walked to her.

"I said nothing because she was right and you," he touched her nose, "were wrong."

"Perhaps."

"I told you. Sarua-san is a reasonable person. She will not, however, let you command or dominate her. You would do well to make peace." He patted her shoulder. "Your personality is difficult enough as it is." She shot him a truculent look and smirked. He walked passed her.

"What about Yukimoto, speaking to me that way?"

"I would say it was long overdue." He then left the room. Thing where turning out to be very interesting indeed. He liked the mother of his grandson. He liked her very much. He wondered what more was in store. Would his wife try something new? For Shouda's sake he hoped not, but one never knew.

 

***

 

Shouda sat in the taxi close to his mom. He took her hand as he talked with Ward and Kamir. Shouda and Kamir had taken to each other immediately, but Shouda was that kind of boy. He readily accepted kindness and openness of any type, as he was the same. He and Kamir were very alike in this respect.

Sara stared out the taxi window holding her son. Her head was beginning to ache.

 

As they sat in a restaurant, she felt as if she would hyperventilate, so excused herself with a big smile and a kiss for Shouda. Poor Shouda had been starved.

Outside, sea air whipped around her face and filled her insatiable lungs. She stood watching the people go by. They all had their own lives and set of problems and challenges. She felt the weight of hers exceedingly.

"Are you going to be okay?"

She turned to Kamir who stood before her, the top few buttons of his shirt undone and his tie hanging from his pocket. She reached over and stuffed it further in.

"I'll be fine." She laughed. "I just need to...to breathe." She rested her hands on top of her head and then covered her face. She felt him move close then wrap his arms around her. Then minute they encircled her, Sara began to tremble. She held in her sobs as best she could, but her gasps shook her body and just when she thought she would slide to the ground, he tightened his hold on her and braced her against him.

They stood there silently for a few minutes, she wrapped her arms around his waist and grabbed his shirt. Her breathing became more even and steady and she let her head rest on his chest.

"You know," his words rumbled in her ears, "earlier I told myself I wanted to find out more about you. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for." He laughed lightly and she joined him.

"I'm sorry Kamir."

"No. It was rather impressive. I wonder if she'll remember everything you said. Was she paying attention?"

"I think so. If she wants to see Shouda she better." He felt good, like a protective shield, but Shouda was waiting. Sara let go of his shirt and he let her go. She wiped her eyes and nose and laughed. "Very ladylike, I know." He only smiled. "How do I look?" She pushed her hair around and arranged her clothes.

"Good, you look good. Here just a little." Her arranged her hair and tucked some of it behind her ear. He stared at her a moment then stepped aside. "Shall we join the others?"

Sara smiled and led the way.

 

***

 

A freshly showered Ward plopped down next to his sister on the futon mat. Together they had pushed the furniture around to open enough floor space in the living room. Shouda was now dead to the world and Sara finishing her second glass of wine.

"Don't hog it you lush." Ward took her glass and the bottle of wine and poured himself some.

She eyed him. "So why are you really here Bod-man?"

"What do you mean? I told you sister-C, I was in the neighborhood."

"Neighborhood like East Asia or like Easter Hemisphere?"

"I was in Hungary, okay, Hungary." He finished off his glass and pour more for her.

"Darren Percy sent you didn't they?" Sara took the glass from him.

Ward lay his long thin body out on the mat.

"It was a good thing too. Look at what happened?" He lifted his hand. "You need people in your corner."

Silence

"So who is this Israeli again?"

She kicked him with her foot.

"He is not Israeli, he's from India."

"Are you in love with him?"

"What?" She erupted into laughter then blew out air in a rush. "No. He's just a nice guy, you know?" Sara lifted her leg in the air. 

"So you still love your baby's daddy?"

She began to rotate her ankle. "You remember when you forced me to take those flexibility enhancing classes with you?"

"Yeah, I can still do that shit, watch." He began to bend his legs in all kinds of directions.

"I man shouldn't move like that, its indecent." She laughed.

"You got to stay limber you know."

She pushed up on her elbow, "How limber do you have to be to walk down a runway?"

He relaxed himself on his belly and smiled at his sister. "Some of those poses are hard on an untrained body." He blinked. "So you are in love with your baby's daddy."

Sara leaned over and gave him a kiss then crawled off the mat, "Good night Bod-man."

 

End Notes:

Please excuse all errors.

Kamir/Sara, Sara/Yuki, Yuki/Kaoru? what do you think?

Already started the next one.

Roku (6) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Hello ladies! Thank you for your reviews, as always.

If you make it to the end, I have a little surprise for you in End Notes

There are no new terms this go round.

Please excuse errors though.

 

They had been sitting outside in the garden for a while now. They had not spoken, just sat and became lost in the maze of their own thoughts. The late afternoon sun painting a sepia finish to the trees, flowers and sparse ornaments. 

"It will become cooler from now on I think." 

Kaoru broke the silence. Her mind raced as it did most days now, trying to figure out what to do with her life. Sara had told her to find something she enjoyed and immerse herself. What did she enjoy? She had also told Kaoru to sequester power over her happiness. To maintain it and not consign it to anyone else. How could she grab hold of a power she was not sure she possessed to begin with? She had many questions, yet life had lost some of its bleakness. For this, she was grateful.

"Kaoru, I must apologize to you." 

Yuki was thinking of Sara's face as she left. Her barely containable rage, the bite of frustration in her words. She might as well have asked if he was a man. Was he? He was ashamed of how completely he had allowed his family to rule his life. Especially in the eyes of a woman who had left home, family and friends to come to a new country. Who made a success of her life on foreign land, birthed and raised a child on her own. Her contempt, though deserved, left a stringently bitter taste in his mouth. 

He had only known her gentleness.

"Yuki..."

"No, Kaoru, I must. Eight years ago, I married you loving another." He laughed sadly. "That is the first time I have ever admitted as much out loud. Perhaps even to myself."

"I know Yuki."

Kaoru felt the need to sooth him. Maybe because she was in need of the same. It would be easy to blame him for everything. Yet, could he truly be blamed for doing what wealthy families all over Japan had been doing for centuries? Men and women being exchanged for wealth, power, favor and pedigree. Like slaves or some especially rare breed of bird. Had not some of them married loving others, wanting something else? Pride, tradition and honor hold in-extractable roots in Japanese culture. It is what makes them great and vulnerable.

"I have been unjust. It mortifies me." They finally looked at each other. "Also regarding our inability to have children. I have allowed you to bear the greatest weight in this. I have allowed my family to treat you dishonorably as my wife. Will you forgive me?"

Kaoru broke his ernest gaze and looked at the bubbling fountain. The water cascaded down into a man made pond where she could just make out the graceful forms of Koi fish swaying about in their small aquatic world. Did they feel happiness or sadness? Did they ever wish to explore the world beyond the constantly shifting surface, the images wagging above their heads? 

"If it helps to ease your pain Yuki, then yes. However, I think what has transpired between us is beyond forgiveness and condemnation. We need to find out who and what we are. I know I must. Sarua-san was very clear on that point."

"Sarua-san?" Yuki was taken by surprise, though he had no doubt of the two women's ability to act appropriately.

"Yes," she looked back at him. "We had an opportunity to talk. She was very kind and she spoke sensible words. I have been avoiding this conversation and you. I have been absorbed in my inability to serve you and your family. I do not have the solutions, but I do not want to be this way anymore."

"I agree. Shall we try together to become as we should be?"

"Yes, I would be very glad of your support."

Yuki hugged his wife.

"And I of yours."

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Sara rang the chime to the Shinohara's home with the note she had just pulled off her door in her hand. She was glad Ward was here to watch Shouda while she was at work. She refused to let him step foot in that school until Umezawa-san apologized and he was no longer enrolled in his old one. So he played around in a school-less limbo for now.

The door opened to the very kind face of Mrs. Shinohara.

"Senpai, I have come to collect my wayward men." she lifted the note her hand. "I am sorry for the intrusion." 

They gave each other an informal bow.

"It is nothing." Mrs. Shinohara held out her hand for her to enter and placed it on her back as Sara passed, guiding her to the scene of Mr. Shinohara, Ward and playing Go. Shouda was trying to coach his uncle. Mr. Shinohara placed a black stone on the playing surface and looked at Ward.

"What? He cheats!" Ward exclaimed in English. Mr. Shinohara blinked.

"No, he doesn't and don't say that please, its rude." Shouda scolded back in English and then translated the conversation for Mr. Shinohara who grinned. Ward accepted his tongue lashing but looked at Mr. Shinohara skeptically.

"Hello Shinohara-san," Sara bowed informally. "Shouda and Ward. Thank you for taking care of my son and younger brother. I hope they were not a burden."

"What did she say?" Ward asked Shouda.

Shinohara lifted his hand and nodded. 

"You will excuse me." Sara turned to her brood. "Come on guys. Lets go home." she ordered in English. As the boys gathered themselves and headed for the door, Mr. Shinohara approached Sara and covered her hand with his own. He look at it then up into her eyes and gave it a pat. Finally, he nodded and retreated with a smile.

Sara watched him go and turned to Mrs. Shinohara with a question.

"Senpai, Shouda told me the night he was born, Shinohara-san was asked to come save me by your son while he sat at the shrine. Is that so?"

Mrs. Shinohara smiled broadly, "Yes, Sarua-san. My husband believes that the spirit of our son lives in you." 

Sara again looked after the aged man and then took her leave.

 

When Sara entered the house, it was to Shouda's whooping laughter and a distinct ring which meant someone was calling on Facetime. The boys were in Shouda's room, so ran to the computer after shutting the door and dropping her things, accepted the call on the fifth ring. It was probably her mother.

The Facetime window widened and her mother appeared on the screen staring over her glasses. She frowned.

"Baby, now I don't mean to pry, (Percy) but what is this about Shouda being abducted from his school?" she blinked a few times.

"Bod-man!" Sara cringed and let her head drop.

Percy did not like Sara's sagging form in her window.

"Darren, Darren look at this. My baby is looking battle warn."

Sara looked up in just enough time to see her mother vacate the seat in front of the camera and her dad occupy it.

"Hey baby girl." He smiled warmly.

(Darren, you bought those tickets yet?)

"Percy, I got them pulled up on my iPad right now." He looked off to the right.

"Dad?"

"Now, don't you worry. Your mom and I just want to come for a visit. We're worried ‘bout you, that's all."

(Darren, where is the new set of luggage?) Percy passed behind Darren.

"She's on a mission. I guess I can't talk you guys out of comming, can I?" Sara's eyes trailed after her mother until she walked out of view.

"I'm afraid not, baby girl, you know your mother, and I will feel a lot better too once I can hold ya in my arms."

To Sara's great displeasure, this triggered a flow of tears. "Its not that bad dad, really. I..."

(Oh, Lord help me, my baby is crying!)

"Its going to be all right, baby girl." Her father soothed.

Percy's head shared the blurry screen with her husband's.

"Listen to your father now. We will get through this together. Just like we did after Shouda's birth." Percy cooed. "We forced the airline to bump them people off the plane, were there before you knew it and helped you through the complications. You remember?"

All Sara could do was nod her head.

"This is what family is for, baby. Sometimes you can't make it on your own. Ain't no defeat in that." Her face softened and she fought the urge to caress the screen.

"I know mama. I - I think I may be a little overwhelmed." Sara sniffed.

"We'll talk about it when we get there. Darren, you bought tickets on a none stop flight right."

"Of course, Percy. I can't stand them layovers. Hold up in some, airport for four hours listening to that damn FoxNews. I can't understand why all the TVs got to be on that channel anyways."

Sara laughed.

"You pull yourself together for Shouda for right now. That's it. We will be there before you know it."

Sara took a deep breath and wiped her eyes.

"You go call my grand baby and fix yourself up."

"Okay, mama." Sara nodded and walked into the hall to call Shouda. He came barreling out of his room and jumped into the chair in front of the computer. She walked into the bathroom and stood staring at herself in the mirror.

"No one denies you're the woman of the decade sister-C. But I had to tell them." Ward's long body was leaned up against the door.

"I know bod-man." she said weakly. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.

"You have always done everything you could for me and I love you." He buried his face in her neck and squeezed. This only triggered more tears as she folded her arms around his. They stood there enveloped in familial love for a few minutes. The only penetration was Shouda's occasional laughter.

"I don't know whats come over me. I've turned into a regular Niagara Falls lately." She turned her head and kissed the side of her brothers face.

"Its called pent up sexual aggression. You need to get laid. What about that Israeli?"

Shouda erupted in laughter on cue.

Sara reached around and popped Ward in the back of the head.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Kaoru bowed low and smiled at Sara. 

"Forgive the intrusion."

"Please come in." Sara lead the way back into her clinic and offered her a seat. Tea came in and was placed on the table.

"I am very grateful for the advice you gave me before." Kaoru said shyly. "I followed it. Yuki and I talked for the first time in years. We have agreed to work together." Kaoru smiled and looked expectantly at Sara. She noticed that Sara had lost weight.

"That is wonderful Kaoru." She smiled brightly and placed a hand on hers. "I'm very happy for you."

"I hope it is not selfish of me. I hope we can become and remain friends."

"Of course."

Kaoru was quiet a moment.

"Does this distress you Sarua-san? You are different."

Kaoru watched a stricken look dawn on Sara's face.

"Distressed? Not at all. I think it is good that you and Yuki are working things out. You have both suffered and deserve happiness."

"What about you? I think you are concentrating on everyone except yourself. It is very admirable of you, but I think it must be hard."

"You are very kind Kaoru. I do want everything to turn out well for Shouda. My distress though, at this moment, may be due to bookkeeping. I've been trying to concentrate on it for days. The truth is, it is my least favorite aspect of the business." She laughed.

"Let me help. I wish to repay your kindness and I like accounting work. I used to head this department at one of my father's enterprises."

 

Sara watched Kaoru's face become very animated. A rare sight. She smiled.

"Really?"

"Yes, I worked for him until I married Yuki."

"Well, if it is not a burden." Sara stood and walked to a desk strewn with papers, printouts, receipts, invoices, bank statements and a ledger. "It would make me very happy if you could take care of this."

Kaoru immediately sat and started shifting the papers. She asked a few questions about Sara's computer program and hunkered down to business. Literally, within minutes Kaoru had all the papers separated and began cross referencing the hard copies with what Sara had written in her ledger.

"Your very fast Kaoru." Sara laughed. "I wonder how many people, like myself, would be relieved by having a professional come by the office every now and then and preform bookkeeping duties. You should start a business." 

Kaoru barely responded. Sara figured she was lost in her world of numbers. Better Kaoru than herself. It wasn't the type of meticulous work she preferred. Hand embossing strips on sheet after sheet of vellum paper or scoring seating cards, she could handle.  Correlating present and past numbers and using them to predict future income patterns, wasn't.

She walked back over to where she was folding origami in the shape of cranes and picked up another piece of elaborately embellished paper. She had purposely picked colors that contrasted brightly with the soft feel of the portfolio. Siblings had gotten together to commemorate the lives of there grandparents by having a special event in which photos and keepsakes would be displayed. Sara was in charge of the album that would house the love letters sent back and forth during and after the second World War. She had taken the time to read them, they had been heartbreaking. The couple was still alive, though aged and sick.

Her mind wondered as she carefully placed each fold to Kaoru's change in countenance from the last time she visited. She was more at peace. It was good that she and Yuki were going to improve their relationship. At the same time she felt a dull pain and sighed. Bravo to Yuki. Depression began to threaten the frontier of her mental celebration.

"Mom!"

She turned to see Shouda standing at the entrance of her clinic with Ward not to far behind.

"Hi Shouda." She gave him a strong hug.

Shouda pulled back and gazed at his mother.

"What's wrong mommy?"

When did she become so damn weak? She smiled.

"Nothing, I'm just happy to see you." She kissed his forehead. "Tell me, what have you been up to today?"

"We woke up late and played video games, then we took a trip to the sea and now we came to visit you. Guess what? Ward spoke in Japanese." His bright face squished up into a smile and the melodious and always uplifting sound of children's laughter filled the clinic.

"It wasn't so good huh?"

Shouda glanced around.

"I was good." He shook his head ‘no' at the same time. Sara laughed and Ward picked him up.

"Excuse me, President. The Umezawas are here to see you." The poor girl's face was tense. Kaoru stopped clicking away at the computer and Ward and Shouda's eyes grew wide.

Sara kissed her son and stalked out of the clinic. She mentally prepared herself as she walked down the short hall and slid the panel aside. Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa and Yuki stood in the showroom. Yuki was the first to notice her as the Umezawas were inspecting her displays. He smiled and nodded his head. She closed the panel behind her.

"Welcome to Paper Butterfly Wings. How may I assist you?" She bowed lowly as the Umezawas turned around. They both bowed in response and Mrs. Umezawa neared. Sara took a deep breath.

"I have come, Sarua-san, to apologize."

Sara bit the inside of her lip.

"If you will excuse me, Umezawa-san, I will invite Shouda from the back." Just as she was about to turn around, Kaoru slid the panel aside and stepped into the room with Shouda. Ward slid the panel back, but didn't quite close it. He and the assistant peeped in through the slit.

 

Everyone was surprised to see Kaoru there. Yuki smiled reassuringly at his wife and Mr. Umezawa nodded. Mrs. Umezawa looked startled but recovered for the matter at hand. Make peace her husband had said and make peace she would. That and Yukimoto had stopped accepting her calls and had come back to the house only to inform them that he and Kaoru would be living at his flat from now on.

Shouda came and stood by his mother. She had to admit, he was a good loyal son. She smiled and looked at Sara.

"Saru-san, I am sorry I took Shouda from school and initiated his transfer to the Academy without your permission. It was presumptuous of me. I will respect your decisions Sarua-san, I will not be presumptuous as I have been in the past and I will not do anything regarding my grandson without permission from either you or Yukimoto."

Sara exhaled the breath she was holding and smiled.

"Thank you Umezawa-san. I am happy to accept your apology."

Mrs. Umezawa nodded and turned to Shouda. He grabbed his mother's hand. This pained her. He really did think his grandmother was an ogre.

"Shouda, I apologize for taking you out of school and putting you through that ordeal. You must forgive your hardheaded grandmother. She means no harm. She only wants to love you." She spoke in a soft voice. It sounded somewhat foreign even to her own ears, yet she had not done so on purpose. She wondered if he would believe her.

To her delight, her grandson smiled brightly and let go of his mother's hand to hug her. He stepped back.

"The only other time I have been that scared by love is when mother caught up with me after I wondered from school one day." His face became serious. "Love can make people show many different emotions, I think. I forgive you, besides, mother says it is unkind to hold grudges." 

"Very well said, young master Shouda." Mr. Umezawa came and patted his grandson's shoulder. Shouda gave him a hug and then ran to his father.

"I am glad you have accepted our apologies, Sarua-san. You are very kind."

"Not at all. I am very happy that you have offered them." They all bowed informally.

Mrs. Umezawa's attention shifted.

"I am surprised to see you here Kaoru."

"I am helping Sarua-san with some accounting." Kaoru offered.

"Well, if it is accounting work you need, Sarua-san, we have plenty of excellent accountants at our disposal. You are welcome to use one of those."

"Mother, Sarua-san and Kaoru have come to an arrangement. Kaoru is an excellent accountant. Do not start trouble so soon after making progress." Yuki calmly passed his mother and brought Shouda to Kaoru.

 

Sara watched Shouda smile up at the two of them as he held Yuki's hand and Kaoru touched his head. For Shouda, she was doing this for Shouda. She repeated it over and over in her head. She tore her eyes away from the loving scene and cleared her throat.

The panel opened and her assistant appeared.

"Perfect timing, would you be so kind as to bring everyone some oolong tea?" The assistant disappeared and Ward stared back at her with concern.

She smiled and looked away.

 

"Sarua, I think it would be a good idea for you and I to take Shouda to his new school together. What do you think?" Yuki looked from his son to Sara.

"I think that is a very good idea." She smiled at a very excited Shouda.

"I think I should..." Everyone turned to Mrs. Umezawa. "That is, I would like to accompany you as well, if I may."

Sara touched her arm. "You would wish to introduce your grandson to the Director?" Sara looked at Yuki who raised his eyebrows in response. "I would be very happy if you were to honor us by doing so."

"Excellent, then I must call to schedule an interview. I think he should start immediately, for he has missed enough days as it is. I have his uniform at the house. I would be happy to let you or Yukimoto take care of it, but I ask that you please use my taylor. He has been working for the Umezawa family for years and well, it would break tradition. I am sure I can get an appointment for whenever it is convenient for you as he always places himself at my disposal. What do you say?" She looked at Sara and Yuki expectantly.

"Sarua-san?" Yuki deferred to her.

She laughed.

"As you see fit Umezawa-san."

"Good. This worked out rather nicely." She patted her husband's shoulder and he took out his cell phone and handed it to her.

Yuki felt very good indeed about recent events. He had stayed away from home to send a message to his mother. His one visit was to inform them that he would be living in his flat instead of the family home. This, he informed them, was a decision based on his mother's bad behavior and that he had no intentions of letting Shouda visit them without parental supervision until he was comfortable with his grandmother again.

He was very frank in his desires. He and Kaoru were trying to improve their relationship. He would not tolerate any attitude towards her. It was not her fault she could not have children and if they could not be supportive in her endeavors to overcome the situation, then he and his wife would not frequent the house.

He had also spoken with Kaoru about preparing a room for Shouda. He hoped Shouda would participate and her as well. She had assured him she was willing assist in any way possible. 

Being at the flat together had proved awkward in the beginning. He had failed to realize how much they had grown apart, if they had ever been together. Kaoru had her moments when she needed to be alone. She also seemed distant sometimes. He was not sure of what it meant, but he had decided not to push her to reveal anything she was not ready to. 

He would not let Kaoru down as he had done Sara. 

Even as he tried his best to support her decisions and be thoughtful of her now, he felt he was letting her down. This gave him much agitation, especially at night when he tried to sleep.

Could he ever make things up to Sara? He was under the impression that the question could not be answered affirmatively. All he could do was his best. All he could do was try to prove that he was learning from having to say, ‘sorry' and hope the occasions of having to do so would decrease. 

All he could do was try to be the man she had always given him credit for being before he had ruined everything.

He looked at her now as she sipped absentmindedly from her oolong tea. He wondered what she was thinking. Shouda snapped her back to reality and she smiled and ran her fingers through his hair before he ran off again.

After he left she looked troubled again.

Yuki knew it was his fault.

 

End Notes:

I think Sara is having it hard. Have no fear, Percy Darren will so be here.

Not quite sure that's going to make it better though.

Okay, your surprise. So I put together a little video of pictures of Japan. I thought you might like to get a feel for the setting of the story. These are my personal pictures, but I'm not in any of them. hee hee. Don't want to scare anyone! Please follow the link.

JAPAN

(Be gentle, its my first ever video.)

Sichi (7) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Wow! I think I rewrote this one five times and then deliberated over it for a few days. At any rate, here it is. I hope it is satisfactory.

A few terms:

Note: The Aquarium in Ōsaka is the second largest in the world (I believe still) and focuses on species from the Ring of Fire (Pacific Ocean).

Tempura - Vegetables and/or meat battered and fried

Tempozan Ferris wheel - was the larges ferris wheel in the world for two years (90s)

'Gold coins to cats' - Japanese idiomatic phrase meaning: give gifts to those who don't appreciate them (or something similar).

Please excuse errors in any respect.

 

For the second day in a row, Kaoru sat at what Sara now called the accounting desk glad it was occupied by someone else. She glanced over at Kaoru. With the ledger open she flipped from computer screen to computer screen rapidly. Before closing the store, Sara had reviewed her work the previous day. Her trained eye told her Kaoru knew her art well. Sara grabbed an order board and went to her office where her clients sat deciding on the last few details for University graduation announcements and invitations for a celebratory gathering. 

In her office, she sat patiently with the graduate, her mother and father as they calmly debated a few options and made their final selections. She smiled politely, congratulated them on their choices and highlighted all their positive aspects. Together, they meticulously filled out the order board, checking and rechecking the request in confirmation. 

When everyone was satisfied, they stood and bowed, she discreetly guided them to the assistant who, with equal discretion, informed them the amount of the deposit. The father shook Sara's hand a bowed again, then happily gathered his family and ushered them out the doors.

"Everyone's stomach muscles must be in top shape."

Sara turned to Kamir perched against the wood of her office wall partition.

"Kamir, its nice to see you."

He walked towards her.

"How are we today?"

"We are fine." Sara smiled.

He put up his finger.

"I'm sorry, I don't quite believe you." Sara looked down. "You must think a horrible kind of brute. I force you to ride rickshaws, follow you to private explosive family gatherings, touch you inappropriately for so short an acquaintance, show up unannounced and unexpected at your place of business and call you a liar to your face." She looked back at him with a small smile. "Now that you put it like that, I am a brute."

"I enjoyed the rickshaw ride?" She rocked her left heel from one side to the other.

A smirk touched his lips.

"Well, what are we going to do about it?"

"About what?"

Kamir rubbed his chin then brightened.

"I know, take me to the Aquarium."

"In the middle of a work day? I have appointments." Surely he had to be joking. 

"Actually, I'm your next appointment."

"Wait a minute." Sara turned to check her book but Kamir grabbed her hand. She turned  back to him surprised.

"Sara, trust me, I'm your appointment for the next two and a half hours."

 

A kaleidoscope of emotions spun and twisted over the surface of her face. She didn't try to remove her hand from his, as he suspected she might. There was gentle pull and a slight tremble. Her lips parted slightly, she blinked and her next words were low and laced with apprehension.

"Kamir, the last time I did this, it turned out horribly."

"You have every right to be cautious, we're both adults. We don't know what might happen tomorrow or the day after that. I don't know how long I'll be here, you don't know whats going to happen next with your affairs, but call me selfish, call me a brute. I won't stand and do nothing." They stared at each other. She reminded him of some the beautiful old temples that stood in his country sentinels of the past. The were weathered sturdy, yet little by little - year after year, tiny fissures creeped up their columns, over their arches, along the walls and ceilings threatening to level them to the ground.

"I don't want your pity."

"You have my admiration."

"I don't know what we can do for each other."

"Help your brother's boat across and your own will reach the shore."

She squinted.

"Did you just pull a Hindu proverb on me?"

"I did." He watched her smile despite herself and laugh. He let go of her hand.

She turned, "Since you're adult and all, come on back while I get my stuff."

He followed, "That's right cause you're paying."

She laughed then stopped mid-step, "Wait, are you engaged?"

"What? No." He stood in place while she started walking again. He wasn't sure what just happened, but he had a feeling it was significant. He followed her into her clinic. "So this is where you work your magic."

"You remember Umezawa Kaoru-san? She is Yukimoto's wife." Sara grabbed her purse.

"Kamir Dubashi. Yes, I do," Kamir bowed. "Forgive my intrusion the other day. It was very impolite."

 

Kaoru had not payed much attention to him when Sara came for Shouda. She surely had not taken in any of his details. Now that she was able to look at him properly, she could not remember ever seeing someone so beautiful. His bow was more fluid than Japanese men, she could tell its origins were from another place. He also looked back up after bending over and caught her eye, this also was very different. She remained in her seat and bowed her own head.

"Think nothing of it. It was an exciting day for us all." Her eyes trailed up to his and then  dropped to her lap, her smile elegant and demure. When she felt brave enough to sneak another look, his eyes were on Sara.

Kaoru turned to her as well. She moved around confidently with her purse hooked on her shoulder mumbling to herself in English. She check this, moved that, jotted down a few notes, put a few things away and stood proudly taking in her clinic. Sara had accomplished something with her life, made decisions that changed her life forever. Moving to Japan could not have been easy, yet she had done it. Adapted. Become successful. 

She could look with pride at what she had put together. This is what Kaoru wanted and exactly what she did not feel. Is that what Yuki admired about Sara years ago, and not herself? Is that what Dubashi-san admired about her now? Where had she gathered her strength from?

"When exactly did you decide you were going to open a business in Japan?" Kamir asked as if he had been inside of Kaoru's mind. Kaoru looked at him.

"I do not know that my thoughts ever purposely ran along those lines Kamir. However, at some point, this became my goal. We have to have goals if we ever wish to accomplish anything." Kaoru watched their relaxed posture and the way Kamir looked at Sara with a flirtatious smile.

"Thank you Kaoru for your help. I am leaving now, but will be back later. Please, do not feel obligated to stay."

"I am very happy to be able to do this for you Sarua. Do not worry, I will not over exert myself." She laughed as Sara chewed at her bottom lip in concern and touched her hand lightly. They both smiled down at Kaoru. She became self-conscious under Kamir's gaze and her own smile slowly faded as she looked down into her lap.

"Very well," She heard Sara say.

"Shall we go?" Kamir asked.

"Yes, bye Kaoru." She nodded to her lap as Sara left.

"Kaoru-san." She nodded again at Kamir's words.

She sat for a few minutes in the same position after they had left. A goal Sara had said...

 

***

 

They walked quietly through the Aqua Gate, a long underwater tunnel. Blue Damselfish darted around above their heads and a few Javanese cownose rays glided passed them in inspection, the oral openings of their cone like snouts flapping open and closed. Next was the Japan Forest with samples of Zelkova serrate, an assortment of Maples and fuzzy leafed Strawberry geraniums.

"Have you been here recently?" Kamir asked as they watched an Asian smallclawed otter busy about with his stomach hairs.

"Not since Shouda was little and that," she said pointing to a Giant salamander as it took a breath, the nostril of his huge wide head sitting on the surface of the water, "made him cry." She laughed. 

"No surprise there. God, that thing is enormous." It sat docile enough it large limbs sticking out to either side and its tail extended as it held itself still in the water.

"I believe it was bigger than he was." They walked on.

"How is Shouda doing?" He watched Sara for signs of something, but didn't get any.

"He's great. Having the time of his life with Ward. I'll feel better once he starts at the Academy though. Yuki, his mother and I are taking him there tomorrow."

Kamir stopped.

"She apologized?" He was surprised, he didn't think the woman had it in her.

"Yes, yesterday with Mr. Umezawa and Yuki and Kaoru and Ward and Shouda all in audience." she bent over laughing. "Scared me to death."

"I bet. Good for you Sara. You've harnessed the beast." He guided them forward.

"I doubt that seriously, but one must seek peace in these types of situation."

"Or, hire a hitm..."

Sara's hand covered his mouth.

"Don't say it. I don't know what my threshold for temptation is at the moment."

He removed her hand from his mouth and smiled down at her. Maybe it was the lightless underwater atmosphere, or maybe it was the comfortable familiarity they shared, but he was suddenly struck by the idea of finding out what her threshold for temptation was.

"Seals, I hear seals." He needed to switch tracks. He had no doubt he would find out, but not at this moment. Right now, he wanted to enjoy her company, hear her laugh, assure her he was harmless.

He watched Sara coo at the small finless porpoises and laugh at the King penguins as they waddled about. She stared in wide-eyed awe at the massive Whale shark, in apprehension as the octopus crawled closer to their position in window and in horror at the Giant spider crab as it sat with two of its segmented legs sticking up in the air as if practicing to balance. Kamir couldn't quite figure her out. How in the world had a simple down-to-earth woman gotten herself mixed up with a family like the Umezawas?

 

"So there I sat in Bergdorf Goodman as my brother tried on outfit after outfit in the Gucci boutique driving the poor attendant crazy. He stood in the mirror and stuck various poses just like a fashion model." She laughed remembering the attendants frustration and the looks of customers as they walked past.

"Was that before or after he started modeling?" They sat upstairs in a restaurant with bowls of steaming tempura and rice. It had been quite a shock to Kamir when they entered the establishment. There were tables and chairs on the first floor, but Sara had walked to a stairway where she left her shoes, donning slippers and started to climb them as if it was the most normal thing in the world. He had quickly done the same.

Sitting at a low table on floor cushions a waitress had brought tea, which she served and then Sara had ordered an assortment of tempura, miso soup and rice.

People walked the streets below them.

"He was discovered there actually." Sara picked up a lightly battered shrimp and dipped it in sauce with her chopsticks. "He couldn't have been anymore than fourteen at the time." She stuck it in her mouth.

"That was your first visit to New York? Where from?" He tried his best to imitate her fluid movements and dropped his eggplant several times before finally reaching his mouth. Sara didn't seem to notice.

"That was our first visit to New York, come to think of it. Darren Percy brought us with them. Two Atlanta bulldogs taking on bighead Yankee businessman." She laughed. "They are fearless those two."

"Darren Percy?"

"That is what everyone calls my father and mother in reference, even my brother and I. Darren - my father's name and Percy - my mothers. They come in a pair."

"From Atlanta." Kamir copied a southern drawl.

"No, that's a Texas accent." She shook her head.

"Atlanta." He tried again.

"Louisiana."

"You got to be kidding me, you can hear the difference?" He slumped his shoulders.

"Sure can." She drawled. 

"Wow, sounds the same to me."

"Yeah well, don't say that if you find yourself in the South or Texas. Liable to get yourself in trouble." She raised her eyebrows in warning.

"I'll make a note of that."

 

***

 

Sara arrived home that night feeling pleased with the day. Kamir was easy to be around and uninhibited. Of course, she hadn't thought that side of his personality so great when he forced her to ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, but as they sat up at the top and looked out over the bay and Ōsaka, she had sighed in appreciation. 

"I'm home." She called and slipped out of her shoes.

"Mom, welcome home." Shouda gave her a hug. "Guess what? Uncle Ward and I made dinner!" Then he disappeared into the kitchen. 

"What?" she padded further into the apartment and saw the table set and Shouda passed with something on a tray.

"You look good sister-C, happy." Ward kissed her on the forehead as he passed in an apron.

"What did you make?" She sniffed the air.

"Baked ziti. Mom, go wash your hand so we can eat please." Shouda looked at her in exasperation.

"Okay, okay." She headed to the bathroom.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

The ride to the Academy was quiet. Mrs. Umezawa sat still in the front seat next to Yuki in contemplation. He was surprised that she did not spent the time lecturing her grandson. Perhaps she was wary of Sara and so did not bother. He had not said anything either as he was poised ready to stop his mother from ruining anything else.

Sara and Shouda said very little, but he noticed in the rearview mirror how his son sat under his mother and held her hand. Both of them looking out the window as they wound through the streets, Sara occasionally caressing his head or rubbing his arm. Shouda looked calm enough and he knew Sara could calm any storm with her touch.

 

It just did not make sense!

"It makes no sense Sarua. Why would he do such a thing? We came to a clear and amicable decision not two days before." He sat on the floor in his apartment with a drink next to his thigh. He felt betrayed. They had worked so hard for the merger. "We went to lunch, we all ate and drank and there was a feeling of finality to the whole deal. He thanked us, we even shook hands several times."

Now he felt like a fool.

"I cannot believe he was dealing with another company simultaneously. He must have known that night," he felt Sara move behind him, "as he drank that expensive sake and ate fatty tuna, that he would be accepting the other company instead." So much time and money down the...

He felt her hands squeeze his shoulders they kneaded into his muscles firmly before rubbing down his arms and back to their original position.

"Can you imagine how much this will cost the company?" He said with less conviction. She targeted his neck with her thumbs pressing from the base of his scull down repeatedly. Then the pads of her fingers pressed into his hair at the occipital bone and carded up his scalp. His eyes fluttered. "We will work it out, I think."

She pulled his head up slightly by the base of his scull then shifted and rubbed her fingers through his hair starting at the temples. She tugged his head back gently so that he was looking into her eyes and smiled.

"Of course you will Yuki." Then she kissed his forehead. He turned around, sitting back on his knees and hauled her onto his lap. He touched his forehead to her, then his nose and then...

 

"Yuki, the turn is here, you will miss it." His mother's voice brought him out of his daydream and he turn the car just in time to the right. "What were thinking Yukimoto? You would takes to your office most likely. Your brain is working on auto pilot." She tapped his shoulder. "The Academy is just down the road."

He glanced at Sara through the rearview mirror, she lifted her eyebrows in question and he cleared his throat and returned his eyes to the road.

"Dad, did you know grandma and grandpa Richards are coming?" Should suddenly announced.

"No, they are..." Yuki looked back at the two.

"My parents, yes." Sara glanced at him in the mirror.

Mrs. Umezawa pulled her visor down and peered at Sara in her mirror.

"Your parents are coming Sarua-san? Why did you not tell us? They must stay with us, it would be rude to have them stay anywhere else."

"Well, we will be a bit tight in my apartment..."

"Of course." She said superiorly.

"I thank you for your hospitality. I will talk the matter over with them when they arrive." Sara looked at her with growing impatience.

"When will that be?" Mrs. Umezawa blinked back.

"Tomorrow! They should be in the air right now." Shouda wiggled happily in the back seat.

Yuki turned into the Academy parking lot and parked his car. Sara and Shouda got out and Mrs. Umezawa waited for Yuki to open her door. As they walked to the entrance, Mrs. Umezawa struck out ahead, Yuki took his son's free hand and smiled down at him.

"Sarua tells me she always takes you to school and picks your up, is that so?"

"Yes, everyday. Sometimes she brings a treat." He wiggled his eyebrows at his father.

"Well, we will see what we can do. However, this collecting and delivering you will remain the same. Either myself or your mother, is that okay with you?" He squeezed Shouda's nose.

"Yes, I think I can handle this."

Mrs. Umezawa turned to inspect the trio and looked as if she would say something.

"Proceed mother." Yuki gave her a look and she huffed and turned around. He glanced at Sara who's lips curved into a smile, but she continued looking straight ahead. He lifted his head and squeezed Shouda's hand and they followed.

Much fanfare was made, of course. The next Umezawa was entering the Academy.  Yuki felt that perhaps the Board wondered what would happen to their meal ticket since he and Kaoru had not produced a child. They were very happy now and bowed very low, the Director meeting them at the door. They were shown into his office and they flattered his mother, himself and Shouda. Sara was not treated badly, but she wasn't treated as an Umezawa either.

This upset him. Sara was the mother of his son, regardless of them not being married. She had come with him to see and approve the school, surely they would not be so foolish as to snub her. After a conversation in which only she was not included, he opened his mouth to set the matter straight.

"I notice, Director, that you do not speak to my grandson's mother." Everyone stopped moving. Shouda looked from his grandmother to his mother and Yuki found himself doing the same. Sara looked much like a wild animal caught in the headlights of a car.

"Umezawa-san, I am mortified that you think I do not speak to Richards-san." The Director stood very quickly and bowed.

"Not to me, Director. I will have it understood, that just because my grandson's mother is not married to my son, this does not mean I will accept any ill treatment of her." She lifted her head proudly and glared at the Director.

"Yes, Umezawa-san."

"You should also be aware, Director, that she will be here to see him to and from school on many occasions and anything that she considers a problem, will be a problem." Yuki emphasized his last words clearly.

"Yes, Umezawa-san." The Director turned to Sara who still looked a bit dazed. "You will have my full cooperation at all times. If there is anything you need, please do not hesitate to confide in me and trust that I will handle it quickly and to the best of my ability." He bowed low. "Please forgive me if my manner has offended you Richards-san. We are very honored to have young master Umezawa enroll in the Academy."

"You can call me Shouda Richards." He piped in.

The Director looked at the Umezawas then Shouda once more. "As you wish."

They were led out of the office where the Director and Shouda parted and headed to his class together. Shouda waved at his mother, father and grandmother as he walked away. Yuki looked at Sara who seemed distressed.

"He will be fine."

"I hope so." Her mouth twisted up a little.

"Of course he will be and if he isn't we will raise the Academy to the ground. The Umezawa with our donations, we do not give gold coins to cats." Mrs. Umezawa huffed.

Sara turned to her with a confused looked.

"Umezawa-san, in the Director's office, thank you for speaking up for me but..."

"Do not think you have tamed me Sarua-san. I did so for Shouda. I will not have him distressed because the Director is a fool." With that, she headed to Yuki's car.

Yuki and Sara looked after the cantankerous woman and then at each other before laughing.

"Small battles." She offered.

"They do not necessarily occur in succession." He countered.

"But they do win the war." She smiled mischievously and followed after Mrs. Umezawa.

Yuki fell in behind her.

"Still so headstrong."

She turned her head slightly to the side as she walked.

"And you? Regaining your fortitude." She continued to walk without looking back.

Yuki smiled to himself and walked to the car where he opened the door for his waiting mother and after closing the door for Sara, rounded it and slid into his own seat.

 

***

 

Sara sighed when, for the millionth time that day, she thought of Mrs. Umezawa's invitation. She promised Mrs. Umezawa before she got out of Yuki's car that she would talk with them about it. She dreaded the thought. This would be their third visit to Japan in twelve years. The first was soon after she moved, the second, when Shouda was born and now. Culture wise, it was much easier for she and Shouda to go back to the States every few years. Her clinic phone beeped.

"Hello, Sara Richards, how may I assist you?"

"Sara, its me, Kamir."

"Whats the matter? Are you lost?" She looked around for her purse.

"No," she heard him laugh. "I'm so glad you have such confidence in me. Just for the record, I am a proud male, I would crawl through the Thar Desert without water before I would call you if I were lost."

She laughed at him and he laughed at himself.

"Okay so then, you just called me to chat like girlfriends?"

"Woman, what do you think of me? I have absolutely no desire for you to think of me as your girlfriend. I must be doing something wrong. I want lunch." 

"Oh, is it lunchtime already?"

"I'll be there in ten." She heard him moving about.

"Wait, I might not be free."

"You are. Ten minutes." He hung up.

 

End Notes:

Excuse errors.

Kamir to the rescue?

Whats up wit Mrs. Umezawa?

Drum roll please........ Darren Percy!

Hachi (8) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Since there was such a dry spell before.....

Thank you for your reviews and I am sorry I have failed to answer, but will do so shortly. There were so many lovely reviews and again, I thank you.

Some terms and what-not:

Nihonshu - what the call sake in Japan (rice wine)

Yubune - a Japanese tub characteristic of its form, deeper than weastern tubs with steep walls. They can range in size but are usually rectangle or oblong in shape. Tradicionally made of wood, more are made of acrylic these days. The water is kept in the tub heated to a certain degree. Usually the whole family will use the same water - as cleaning the body is done separately - and it is recycled the next day.

Tokkuri - what the vaselike bottle is call which sake is served in.

Choko - the cuplike vessels the sake is poured into.

Yuvā guru - young master in Hindi

 

Darren Percy, their families lived on swaths of farmland in the Georgia country. Childhood sweethearts, they tackled University together and after a brief stint in the army, took Atlanta by storm. Refusing to ever work for someone else, they started their own business and turned it into a little empire. With two heads for business and a no-nonsense Southern approach they extended their reach across the continental US. 

All this they accomplished and raised two children in a loving close knit family.

This was the couple that exited the plane in Ōsaka's Kansai International airport, Percy in a sharp mint green narrow pant suite with equally colorful sateen short sleeved coat, designer pumps and gigantic Cole Haan bag. Her dreads stylishly pinned in a chignon and large shades perched on top of her head. Darren a dark grey button down with mint green stripes, black slacks and sports coat, suede shoes and felt trilby on the back of his head.

They swayed and swaggered, respectively, off the plane and through customs finally collecting their luggage, or rather, having it collected and stepped through the arrival doors with a short sturdy attendant wheeling the luggage behind them.

"Grandma Richards!" Shouda came barreling from a crowd of people and tried his best to wrap his little arms around his grandmother.

"Aw, here is my grand baby. Look at him Darren. He's got so big." She bent down and taking his face in her hands showered burgundy spice color kisses all over his face. "Taste so good, my beautiful baby boy. Now, hug your grandpa. Don't want him to feel left out."

"No! Grandpa." Darren bend himself down and took his grandson in his arms and lifted him up in a hug.

"Saved my grandpa bear hug just for you, now." Then with Shouda still in his arms started walking while giving him kisses.

"Grandpa, moms going to scold if you don't put me down." He warned as he laughed.

"So let her, it ain't everyday I get ta hold my grand baby, is it? You leave your mother to me."

"Where is she anyway?" Percy scanned the crowd.

Shouda turned and pointed, "With dad."

Darren Percy looked at each other then followed the direction of Shouda's little finger. Sara stood next to a very handsome, very well dresses Asian man. She waved.

"Darren, Darren do you see that?"

"I do Percy, lets go meet the man, though I have to say he's lucky they don't let guns on them planes." They turned to Shouda and smiled. "Lets go see your mom and meet your father." 

"I'll introduce you." Shouda said proudly.

"Okay, you'll introduce us." Darren agreed.

"My grand baby speaks Japanese." Percy smiled fondly at him and cupped his face before they continued to walk.

"Sara, baby girl, oh, my beautiful baby girl." Percy enveloped Sara in her arms and hugged her tight.

"I'm glad you're here mama." Sara hugged her back. Percy pulled back looking into her daughters eyes and smiled warmly before taking Sara's face in her hands and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"Darren"

"You don't have to keep calling my name, Percy, I'm right here." He stepped forward and gave her a kiss.

"Dad would you please put Shouda down?"

"Sara, I'm going to hold my grand baby whether you like it or not and..."

"I want to give you a hug too, daddy." She twisted her lips. He smoothly put the boy down and she stepped into his arms and breathed.

"Nothing in the world smells like you do daddy." She whispered. He smiled and kissed the top of her head. She took a deep breath and pulled back. Both Darren and Percy gathered themselves as Sara's eyes pleaded with them. They turned to the Asian man. When he realized he was had everyones attention, he took his hands out of his pockets and stood tall. A smile tried to etch its away across his face.

"Grandpa and Grandma Richards, this is my father Yukimoto Umezawa." He turned to Yuki and made their introductions in Japanese. He bowed very low and they looked at each other. "You have to bow." Shouda whispered. They did so at maybe fifteen degrees. It would be a total insult if they were not foreigners. Sara closed and opened her eyes. Yuki smiled.

"It-is a pleasure to meet-you." His pronunciation was very imperfect but he got it all out and extended his hand.

"Well, now." Darren took his hand. "Now that I know you speak English I'm sure we can get to know one another." Yuki's face dropped in confusion. "I feel kind'a bad that I didn't buy that Japanese phrase book, since you made this effort an all." Yuki shook hands with Percy, who was less impressed. His smile wavered.

"Dad has been practicing his English." Shouda beamed.

"Isn't that nice." Percy gave her best fake Atlanta smile and eased over to Sara. "Why is he here?" She said leaning over. Sara pointed to the patient luggage handler waiting behind their mountain of bags. Darren continued to talk to Yuki as he struggled to keep up with his rapid English. Every now and then Shouda translated for him.

"I don't have a car, its the only thing I could think of mama."

"Haven't you ever heard of a taxi?"

"He wanted to do it and taxis are expensive." Sara looked at her mom guilt stricken.

"Next time we'll pay the damn fare." Percy whispered.

"I know this is awkward, but please, okay?" Percy crumbled under her daughters troubled face.

"Please, if-you are - ready." Yuki lifted his hand in the direction they should go. The group followed as Shouda led the way out of the airport. When they stepped outside Percy dropped her sunglasses over her eyes and Darren pulled his out his pocket. 

"Grandpa," Shouda whispered, "dad doesn't understand English so well, so you have to speak slowly to him and keep it simple. Understand?"

"Oh, oh yes," Darren turned around, "I apologize for speaking so fast back there." Yuki blinked, "My English. I was just happy to see you understood that I got carried away. So just tell me when you don't understand something, okay?" Yuki smiled weakly and nodded his head. "Okay then." Darren patted him on the shoulder and turned to follow his wife.

"Do not worry, dad, I will talk to him." Should smiled and ran after his grandparents.

Yuki scratched his head and looked at Sara. They shared a laugh and she grabbed his arm.

"You are doing fine Yuki."

He squinted rather than smiled and trudged beside her.

"My mother does not speak English. My father does, I believe, but I do not know how much. Maybe they will say they do not wish to stay at my family home."

"If we can just get them home. I am sure everything will calm down." She smiled reassuringly at him and gave his arm a squeeze before letting go. They walked up to her parents in the middle of a discussion.

"Darren, why are we leading since we don't know where the car is?"

"I know grandma." Shouda interjected.

"My smart grand baby." She smiled at him indulgently. "We need to get your grandpa home so he can rest."

"Rest? Rest. Percy, I just spent seventeen straight hours sitting on a damn plane. I don't need no rest. The last thing I want to do is rest." His was bent over slightly and he popped his hands together.

"What do you want to do then, Darren?" Percy asked patting Shouda's cheek.

"I want ta eat me some of that sushi," he smiled. "And drink me some of that sake and see some stuff. What do you say Shouda?"

"Okay!"

"Okay," he turned to Yuki and looked at him over his sunglasses, "young man, lead the way."

Sara quickly translated for Yuki and his eyes grew wide then he bowed several times and struck out ahead to lead the way.

 

***

 

Two hours later, Sara opened the door to her apartment and ushered in a very tired Darren Richards. Percy followed and Yuki and Shouda after her pushing and pulling their luggage. They had gone to eat and ride around Ōsaka visiting Sara's previous location, present location and the bay. Darren partook heartily of the sushi and the sake and stood proudly in Sara's shop. While at the bay, jet lag hit.

Percy had sat captivated as Shouda demonstrated how to use chopsticks. She laughed quite a bit, but pushed on in her efforts. The sake was not to her liking at first, so she sipped moderately. However towards the end of this portion of their foray she had begun to enjoy it. She held Shouda in her arms as he pointed to different things as they rode through the streets and spent a lengthy amount of time in the Dolce & Gabbana two shops down from Sara's as they departed for the bay.

Yuki had dutifully taken Sara's parents everywhere they wanted to go, stopped at every shop, waited patiently as Percy browsed, paid for dinner and the sake and tried in his best English to explain a few things about Ōsaka's topography as they stood at the bay. He turned to Sara occasionally for specific vocabulary. After his lengthy monotone dissertation, he horsed around with Shouda spinning him through the air and practicing some jujitsu hits.

Shouda moved around in the throws of that energy and excitement reserved only for a seven year old in its happiest state, surrounded by those he loved most in the world, his family complete.

Sara was happy to see her parents. Talking with them through Facetime was not the same as in person, no matter how fantastic it was. Though their presence presented new challenges, it was good to have them with her. She had yet to broach the subject of staying with the Umezawas. She also had to admit it was nice being together as a family, with Yuki. He was nervous, but he was exerting so much effort. He had to have known they would be less than glad to meet him at the airport, yet he had insisted on offering his car and time.

 

Yuki stood quietly watching Sara's parents greet Ward. There were hugs and kisses and Percy seemed to fuss at Ward, who did not appear phased. They spoke back and forth in rapid English, he had no idea what they were saying, but the general feeling was one of love and happiness. This was how American families treated each other, pinching cheeks and slapping butts. Loud laughter and animated faces. He liked it. Shouda came up to him as he stood observing.

He squatted down.

"You are very happy to see your grandparents." Shouda nodded. "Sara is happy too."

"It is too bad you cannot stay with us dad." Shouda pouted a little, sleep tugging at his eyes. Yuki felt both embarrassment and guilt. He gave his son a quick hug and stood. Sara looked at him expectantly and her parents turned as well. There was no time like the present.

"My - family, wishes to invite-you to sleep? Sleep in-our house. Please." He nodded his head and looked down at Shouda who smiled up at him. He lifted his chest.

 

"You mean you want us to," Darren turned to Sara. "He means they want us to stay with them, at their house?"

"Yes"

"Well, why in the hell would we do a thing like that?" Darren blinked.

"Darren, the grand baby." Percy reminded him.

"I'm just asking, why would we stay at some strangers house instead of our own daughters?" He thrust out his hand.

"Darren, I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just trying to remind you of Shouda's presence and the man might be Japanese but surely he can read body language and he just extended an invitation." She finished with smile.

"Does that mean you'll go?" Sara ventured.

"What? Who said that? I didn't say that." She cocked her neck to the side and looked wide-eyed at her daughter. Darren gave his wife a look.

"We will be a bit cramped." Sara face was looking undecided. He wasn't sure what was going on, did she want them to go or didn't she?

"There's nothing wrong with a bit of cramped space." Percy blinked at her. "In your grandmother's house we used to double up six to a room."

"But grandma," Shouda pulled on her hand. "This isn't Georgia. Here the honor of hospitality is very important. Sofu Shinohara says that generosity, hospitality and honesty are the three most important parts of honor. If you don't accept the invitation you will dishonor the Umezawas." His grandson blinked up at Percy and himself innocently. Darren looked at his wife and she look at him. They both laughed.

"Well, can't very well turn it down when you put it like that, now can we?" Darren patted his grandson's head. "What do you say we spend out first few days here and then head on over to the...to their house?" He looked up at Percy and she nodded.

"Sounds good." Shouda moved over to his mom and hugged her sleepily.

"Young man, you may tell your parents that we accept." Darren tipped his hat. "Thank you for the evening." He turned around. "Now where's my bed."

Percy gave a stiff thank you and Ward grabbed a bag and led them to Sara's bedroom.

 

Sara waited for them to leave then turned to Shouda.

"Say goodbye to your father and go bathe before grandma and grandpa get ready."

"Okay mommy." Shouda pulled his sleepy form from his mother and gave his father a hug before stalking back to his bedroom.

"They are very colorful." Yuki said as she stepped to him.

"Yes"

"They do not approve of me." He lifted his brows.

"Not yet." She watched him sigh. 

"It is my own fault."

Sara wished to heaven she could get her feelings straight about this man. On one hand she was angry with him. She had been betrayed and humiliated. On the other, she wanted so much to comfort him, touch him and sooth him. A voice admonished her to get rid of him before he more maternal instincts took over. She was more than willing to comply with it.

"You should go home Yuki. Kaoru will be waiting for you." She kept one hand at her side as she reached for the door with the other.

"Yes," they bowed informally and walked over the threshold.

"Thank you." She leaned against the door.

"When they are ready, you must inform me and I will come take them to the Umezawa home." He bowed again and walked down the hallway. Sara shut the door with a sigh and turned to see Ward giving her the eye. She knew what was on his mind.

"Why don't you just talk to me about it?"

"I can't talk about what I'm not sure of to begin with bod-man." She walked up to him. "Besides, I'm giving the Israeli a try." She smiled and walked past him.

"Finally"

 

***

 

Yuki entered his flat. Kaoru was not waiting for him. She was in her room with the door closed. He would bear up under the silence and separation, he did not deserve anything more. First, he would see if she was awake. He tapped on the door and waited. To his surprise, it opened.

"Kaoru, I thought you may be sleeping."

"Not yet," there was something different about her. "How are Sarua-san's parents?"

"They are sleeping now most likely, it was a very long journey. We went for sushi and then around Ōsaka. They are lively." He smiled.

"You should bathe, I will prepare rice balls and heated nihonshu." With that, she passed by headed for the kitchen. He stood a little amazed. She had her moments, but he never knew what he would find. This would be a pleasurable evening.

After taking a shower and a soak in the yubune, he trailed out into his flat and slumped down in his couch. Sara's parents hated him, but Shouda loved him and Sara appreciated his exertion. He would have to be content with that. He saw the Shouda album on the shelf still waiting for him to finish what he started before. Kaoru came and sat down a tray with a plate of rice balls and a tokkuri of heated sake and two choko vessels. 

"What were they like?" She filled his choko and offered him a rice ball.

"Very affectionate. They take every opportunity to show affection. They also communicate quite a bit. I would say they are much louder than the average Japanese person and it does not bother them." He took a bite of his rice ball.

"Are they strong?"

Yuki nodded

"Formidable is also a good word to describe them. However, Shouda is able to persuade them easily enough." He laughed.

"Not Sarua?"

"The two dynamics are different. One is a beloved daughter. The other is the only grandson, which when translated, means the sun, moon and stars."

"I understand." He noticed Kaoru remained quiet for a few minutes. He sipped his sake. "Yuki, I have a goal."

"Ah? What is it?" He put his choko down.

"As you know, I have been helping Sarua-san with her bookkeeping. It is the same as I used to do for my father. I enjoy it very much."

"Yes?"

"I think it would be exciting to offer this service to companies similar to Sarua-san. Will you help me?" She looked at him kindly. Kaoru have her own business as an accountant? He had never thought of that before. He was not sure how it would turn out, but if it was a way for him to be helpful to Kaoru, than so be it.

"Yes, I will."

Kaoru smiled happily down into her lap.

"I will show you what I have thought of so far."

"We can speak to your father and mine as well. They will have many contacts."

"No, we said we would help each other. It is your help I wish Yuki." She looked into his eyes and Yuki nodded.

"Show me what you have done."

She jumped up from the couch and ran to her room.

Yuki eyed the album once more with a lighter heart. Soon he would try again. 

 

***

 

A freshly bathed Sara crawled quietly into bed with her son's sleeping frame. She maneuvered gently around him and lay on her side watching his back rise and fall. Leaning over, she gave him a kiss. He stirred and turned over.

"M..mom." 

"Yes."

"It was fun having dad with us." He spoke half sleep, half awake.

"Yes"

"I think I would like a brother or sister." Sara still and looked close at his face. His eyes were closed.

"Why don't you concentrate on making friends at school first?" She rubbed his head.

"Okay." He curled into her and she kissed his head. She waited for him to say more, but he didn't. Was he sleep talking? Brothers and sisters, good grief! She stifled a laugh. Her mind drifted over the ridiculous day. 

Yuki collecting her from work then heading over to the academy to get Shouda. Shouda, a ball of excitement, pulling his dad to help him pick out his clothes and Ward cleaning the house. Waiting for her parents to arrive while Shouda bounced from one foot to the other, Yuki looking pale. There arrival, going around afterwards.

She wondered what Kamir would say when she told him.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

The first day, Darren Percy woke up way too early. Percy harassed Ward as he tried to sleep on his futon mat until he woke up and told them about Hungary. They promptly fell asleep again after Sara left with Shouda and slept until noon where Percy sent Ward out to the store to buy a few ingredients for lunch. She had no idea how to cook Japanese style and she couldn't read what the damn condiments were.

They eased through the day, Darren on his Wii and Percy at the computer until Sara and Shouda arrived home.

The second day, Darren Percy woke up late and the house was left to them. They took a walk together and made it home just in time to accept the Shinohara's invitation to a late lunch. This consisted mostly of the sitting and smiling while Mr. Shinohara sat motioning for them to eat as Mrs. Shinohara brought out food. However, this Darren Percy was somewhat used to as the Shinoharas had stuck with them through the complications associated with Shouda's birth. They felt at ‘ease.'

They took a nap as their bodies continued to adjust and were rejuvenated when Ward came home from wherever he had absconded and initiated preparations to pick up Shouda from school. The arrangement was that Yuki would collect them. They would get Shouda and he would leave them at Sara's shop as they had dinner plans. 

 

Percy squeezed little Shouda's hand as they walked past the designer shops in Shinsaibashi on the way to Sara's. She dipped into Coach, much to the chagrin of her husband and took longer then necessary to shop the bags without buying anything. Thus they arrived at Paper Butterfly Wings. Ward held the door and they all walked in to Sara talking comfortably to a handsome foreign looking man in expensive causal clothes.

"Kamir," Shouda ran to him and gave him a high five.

"Yuvā guru, fancy uniform." He popped Shouda's collar and whistled.

Darren Percy looked at each other.

"Darren, that is not a black man." Percy observed.

"No one said he was a black man, Percy. You the one assumed that just cause his name was Kamir, he was a black man."

"He's Hindi, from India." Ward corrected.

"Lord help me." Percy rolled her eyes.

Kamir closed the distance between them.

"I am sorry to disappoint you. My name is Kamir Dubashi and I am taking you to dinner tonight." He shook first Darren then Percy's hand. "I don't know about you by I am dying for English conversation, so this is really more of a courtesy to me then the other way around." Shouda came from changing his clothes and Kamir ushered everyone out the doors. "I'm sorry, I do not have a car, so we get to experience the adventure of riding the subway, which is rather simple."

 

Yuki watched this man, easily interact with Sara's family. Taking his place without batting an eye. He had been standing too close to Sara when they entered and his smile was all together too broad. Now he spoke his fluent English and wrapped everyone up in his easy charm. Surely they will like him better. He stood rather stupidly holding the door as they exited. 

"Thank you Yuki." Sara smiled as she passed, he nodded.

"Dad, sorry you are unable eat with us." Shouda stood looking up at him sadly.

"Kaoru and I have business to attend to this evening."

Shouda twisted his small lips like his mother.

"Please tell her hello." Yuki nodded and Sara guided Shouda forward.

"Yukimoto-san, I am glad to take everyone off your hands. Leave them to me. I will take care of them." Kamir popped his eyebrows and moved in next to Sara as they walked. A cloud of English buzzed around them and Percy laughed after something Kamir said. Yuki stood in dismay, watching Sara's family walk away with another man.

 

End Notes:

What do we think of Darren Percy?

Kamir is wedging his foot in.

What is Kaoru going to do next?

The parents will meet!

So many things going on! Someone else needs to write this, I'm too excited to type!

Please excuse my million errors, and thank you for your patience.

Kyu (9) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

This chapter took on a mind of its own as I was writing. It is not as I planned, but it is what came out.

Terms and what-not:

Hankyu International Hotel - Luxury hotel in Osaka

Shinshoku - Shinto priest

Genki de ni! - Good Luck(for the future)!

Please excuse errors :)

 

Darren Percy sat in Sara's bed. Darren scratching in his crossword book and Percy catching up on the latest James Patterson novel. It had been an interesting few days to say the least and Percy was having trouble concentrating.

"Darren, I can't take it anymore. I'm going to go talk to her." She plopped the book down in her lap and looked at her husband.

"No, Percy," Darren looked at her over his reading glasses. "Give the child some time. She'll come to us. She always did in the past and she will now too. Just watch." He gave his wife a nod and returned his attention to his crossword.

"When, Darren, when? Spring the ex-boyfriend on us in the airport, then up pops the Muslim. I've got to know what's going on."

"Patience, Percy."

"We'll be going to that Umezotos or motos or whatever they're called soon." She paused a second. "No, I can't take it. I have to find out." She tossed her book on the table by the bed and was in the middle of swinging her feet off the bed when there was a knock at the door. 

"Who is it?" Darren asked looking Percy dead in the face.

"Sara, may I come in?"

Percy quickly swung her feet back on the bed and picked her book up.

"Of course, come on in." Darren grabbed her book and turned it right side up with an ‘I told you so' smile plastered on his face.

"Hey, you guys getting ready to go to bed?" Sara squeezed in the door halfway.

"No, come on in baby." Percy calmly put her book down and took off her glasses as Sara padded to the bed and sat down at their feet.

"Did you have fun tonight at dinner?" There was a timidity in her voice that Darren recognized.

"Why, yes we did. That Kamir is a right nice fellow." The entrance. He knew how to get her to talk.

"Who is he? Where is he from? How do you know him? Do you like him?" The shut down. Percy sat up. Darren cut his eye at her and looked at Sara who blinked and chewed the inside of her lip.

"Percy, if you'd spent more time talking to him than debating with him, you'd know he's a lawyer from Mumbai and they met through one of Sara's clients." The clean up. He smiled at his daughter.

"He is very nice and he seems to be interested in me, for some reason." She sighed. Percy opened her mouth to speak, but Darren lifted his hand. "Everything is just so mottled up. I like him just fine. I feel comfortable with him, but then there is Yuki trying his best to be a father to Shouda."

"He's married Sara."

"I know mama, I know. I don't want to want him. It just...he's working on his marriage and relationship with Shouda and trying to get along with me and I get so angry because he left me, mama." Sara's eye filled with tears. "He left me alone and I loved him and I wanted us to be a family, I dreamt about it at night as I carried Shouda and after he was born and," they started leaking down her face, "and now I watch him share Shouda with his wife, like a family. I envy them."

"Oh, baby, come on up here." Percy patted the bed between she and Darren. Sara crawled up between them and Percy wrapped her arms around her and rocked her as she cried.

"He didn't fight for me, he didn't even try. I see him going against his parents for Shouda and I keep thinking...I keep...why didn't he do that for me? Why?"

"Sara, you need to let go of the past." Darren eased closer as the door opened. Ward stepped in. "Boy, don't you know how to knock?"

"Lost all knowledge of it. I figured Sara would be getting things off her chest." He shrugged and stepped in.

"It's okay daddy." Sara sniffed. Ward stretched his long body out on the bed.

Darren grunted, "Like I was saying, you need to let go of the past. You can't mix the past with the present. You have to keep your eyes on the future."

"And your future is Shouda, huh baby?" Percy gave her a squeeze.

"What about my feelings?" Sara looked over at her father.

"I think, for the first time since it all happened, you're finally dealing with them. The fact of the matter is, he was a coward. He left you, but you both made a conscious decision for it to stay that way, whatever your reasons. I'm not saying your decision was wrong, now. You've been throwing your energy into everything but what happened and now that he is back, all that is rearing its ugly head." He gave her a kiss on the head.

"So, she should forgive him and move on." Ward nodded in agreement.

"Didn't say nothing bout forgiveness." Darren point to his son.

"Dad," he looked at his father in disbelief, "there is no letting go without forgiveness. He most likely needs to forgive himself too, he is probably struggling with demons of his own."

"Good, he should be." Percy interjected. "But, baby, the truths are these: he is married, he wants to be a good father to Shouda and he needs your cooperation to do it. You have to move on with your life too. What you had with Yuki, is over."

 

It hurt Sara's heart to hear those words but she figured her mother and father were right. She was stewing in the past. Wishing for things that were not her's to have. Her heart still ached for Yuki because she let it, because she needed to deal with emotions properly and let it go. She would work out an amiable friendship with Yuki to prove the past was in the past and to help create a loving environment for Shouda.

"Which brings us back to Kamir." Ward grabbed her leg.

"The Muslim." Percy rolled her eyes.

"He's not a Muslim mom, he's Hindi." Sara sat up with resolve pulling her leg from Wards' grasp.

"I say, you enjoy him, have fun. Admire and be admired." Ward winked at his sister. "They're seeing each other you know." He announced to his parents.

"Well, we figured something was up when he took us to dinner last night." Darren returned to his crossword.

Sara repeated her mother's words. What she had with Yuki is over. What she had with Yuki is over.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

It was a new day. A new beginning. Sara looked at the order board on her lab table. It was the biggest order she had ever had to date. That's right, the decisions had been made on the massive project she had been working on. The wedding. Now she had deadlines. A multitude of deadlines. A family from Northern Japan was marring into a very wealthy family from the Southern Japan. It would be attended by everybody who was anybody including foreigners associated with the both families. Apparently, the family from the North was new money and not quite on the level of the grooms, but with this wedding they would be launching themselves into a new socioeconomic strata. They had arrived.

Sara was very proud of landing this job. Even though no one had ever said anything, she knew she had been up against more traditional and better outfitted companies. She had waited her turn in one of the private lounges belonging to the Ceres bar in Ōsaka's prestigious Hankyu International hotel nursing a cosmopolitan. When they arrived, she found her self the center of attention not only for the bride, groom and their parents, but also for their lawyers, a wedding planner, two secretaries, a personal assistant and their Shinshoku. This was very unusual.

The pricy vodka gave her the extra kick she needed to make her presentation and the center of attention shifted from herself, and her race, to her work. She knew it was superior, her careful selections and attention to detail. She had taxed her brain on everything from texture to form, cohesion to flow. She had blended sacred treasures from the North with icons of the South and she'd done it three different ways. They had been enraptured and she discreetly excused herself to give them time to inspect her sample boards and took a ride on the elevator and a short walk around the luxurious lobby.

When she returned, there had been a general feel of excitement in the air, the bride and groom had stepped aside with her and told her the job was hers. There was a formality they were obligated to go through, but they promised to set up an appointment the following day to take care of the details. The group walked out much less superior than when they had walked in and many sincere bows were given.

She secured her apron and put on her gloves, she would be working first with stamping, and subsequently lost herself in the world of paper, creation and colors. Time faded away as well as every living being. That is, until Kamir blew on the back of her neck as she scrutinized the announcement template for errors. She came crashing back to reality with warm cheeks, an increase in heart rate and slightly parted lips.

"Kamir?"

 

He was a cad. He had resisted outside of the ramen-ya, in the damn tunnel at the aquarium, at the top of the Ferris wheel and at a moment when they found themselves alone last night, he wasn't resisting anymore. He would call it and introductory kiss, light pressure on the lips and a gentle caress of the neck. She didn't lean back or protest, but she didn't touch him either. He took his time, his tongue flicked over her lower lip, his thumb slid the length of her jaw to the lobe of her ear. He felt her shiver. An introductory kiss. He released her lips.

"If you're going to smack me, let me know now so I can prepare my bad side." He was still close and as her eyelids raised and she looked in his eyes, he knew there was no danger in that happening. She smiled.

"I wasn't going to smack you."

"Good, because it is time for lunch and its hard to eat with a swollen jaw."

"I'm trying to figure out why my assistant doesn't announce you anymore." She turned from him and began to untie her apron.

"Excuse the intrusion." 

He and Sara turned around to see Kaoru bowing in the doorway. Not too far behind her Yuki stepped in the room.

"Excuse the intrusion."

Kamir looked at Yuki and Yuki looked at Kamir.

"Kaoru, Yuki, hello." There was a hint of surprise in her voice. Kaoru stepped forward and grabbed her hand.

"I am sorry to impose on you Sarua, but Yuki and I would be delighted if you could have lunch with us. Kamir is welcome as well. I have something I wish to discuss with you." Even when she mentioned his name, Kamir noted that she did not look at him. Sara did.

"I can see no reason why not to go. Kaoru, Yukimoto." he bowed. "Do you Sara?"

 

An unexpected development to be sure, but Sara was a new woman. A woman not focused on the past, which is why she accepted Kamir's kiss. She felt it coming and had decided not to resist, but to enjoy, and she had. She smiled.

"I do not." She grabbed her purse and hung her apron on its hook. She checked her appearance in the mirror and turned to the room. Kamir stepped up to her with Yuki to his right.

"Wait a minute." He tilted her chin and rubbed at a dark smudge under her jaw as he smiled into her face. "Perfect." He turned to Kaoru. "After you." She smiled shyly and linked arms with Sara as she passed. In the showroom Kaoru leaned in as they walked. 

"You are not bothered by this I hope."

Sara smiled confidently.

"Kaoru, you are very kind to think of me, but what Yuki and I had is over."

Kaoru only lowered her eyes and let go as Kamir caught up with them and opened the shop door to exit.

 

Yuki glance at the man sitting in the car beside him and then at the women in the back seat. He had been surprised to see him in Sara's clinic and if he were honest, a bit disappointed. He did not know why, he held no claims to Sara's heart. Eight years had passed and he had chosen his wife and his family over her. To make it worse, he had rejected her in such a degrading way. He winced.

Surely she hated him or at least was only being kind because of Shouda. She was a better person than he. He knew now. He regretted now. At least there was Shouda. Such a good child and so like his mother. He would protect that in him, no matter what happened.

"Yukimoto, I understand you are set to take over the reigns from your father soon." Kamir adjusted himself so he could look at Yuki.

"Yes, my father wishes to step down as President though he will still work as the Presidents advisor."

"You mean, your advisor."

"If that is how it turns out." Yuki nodded humbly.

"There is no need to be modest Yukimoto."

"You misunderstand Dubashi-san. There are other candidates, wiser candidates than myself who have worked very hard for my father. It is true I will inherit his interests in the company, but it does not mean I will be chosen to take his position." Yuki pulled into a parking space in the garage.

"Do you want the position?"

"If I am qualified."

Kamir tilted his head and shrugged.

"There are probably lawyers in the firm I work for, who felt me unqualified for this job. Maybe they were right." Kamir exited the car and he waited for Yuki as he engaged the alarm as the women walked on. "I find, that if you want something, it is better to go after it, not wait for it to come to you."

"Even if you do not deserve it?" Yuki felt an indirect shift in the conversation and it irked him.

"Deserving is relative, Yukimoto." Kamir kept his eye ahead as he walked beside Yuki. Yuki followed his line of sight, he was looking at Sara.

"What if you do not have a complete understanding of the subject?"

"Immersing oneself can be the best way to learn. Trying it out, getting a feel for it, enjoying its benefits." Still he looked at her.

"It is not an experiment. There are consequences for your actions."

"I suppose you should know that better than anyone." Kamir stopped. "Wait, we are still talking about the job right?" He turned away, "We must not keep the ladies waiting."

Yuki followed behind him with a dark cloud looming over his head. Kamir had engaged him the conversation on purpose. What he could not figure out, was why?

 

Kaoru stole glances at Yuki and Kamir as they began to eat. She felt Yuki's unease and Kamir's triumph. Maybe asking both of them had been a mistake. She had asked Yuki because it concerned him and invited Kamir out of kindness, really. She had been more worried about Sara feeling uncomfortable. 

"Sarua, this lunch was my idea." Kaoru began. "You see, I have decided to start my own business."

"Kaoru, that is wonderful. In accounting?"

"Yes, you remember you mentioned it in jest when I first start looking into your books?"

"Yes, I do. I still think it is a good idea. I am indebted for the fabulous job you did for me."

"I have asked for Yuki's help and he has agreed." She smiled at him. "Now, I wish to ask for yours."

"Of course, what can I do?" Sara put down her glass.

"We are not using my family or the Umezawa family contacts," she looked into her plate, "I have my own reasons why."

"I understand."

Kaoru looked back up. "I felt that you would. This is why I have come to you. I would like to be a freelance accountant. To work for businesses like yours. You must know other small companies like Paper Butterfly Wings who could use a part time accountant."

Sara sat up. "I have just the thing. I belong to a merchant group. It caters to small business, that is, with X amount of employees so-on-and-so-forth, we could start there."

"It surely will have many business listed, Kaoru." Yuki nodded and smiled.

"Yes," Kaoru was very excited. Yuki was helping her with the bureaucratic details and now Sara was giving her possible clients. She herself had worked out the numbers. Things were coming together.

"We should have a toast, but not with water and tea." Kamir lifted his hand to attract the waiter. "Please bring us..." he looked at Kaoru, "what would you like to drink?"

This was what it was like to be captured in his attention. His eyes were attentive, alert. A smile, just for her danced around his lips and he waited. She became self-conscious. Her brow creased and his brow arched.

"Anything you like Kaoru. It is a toast to you." Sara encouraged and Kaoru turned to her.

"Then...then," she looked at Yuki who nodded. "Then, Tequila Sunrise."

"Excellent choice, strong and sweet. Tequila Sunrise please. Four. I like the way you think." He tapped his temple and she smiled. He was so lively, open and fresh. He turned away to shine on Sara, but Kaoru was still happy. The drinks were quickly brought out and everyone grabbed theirs. "A toast. We should live this to the husband." She turned to Yuki who looked surprised.

"Me?"

"Come on Yuki, you can do it." Sara raised her eyebrows expectantly. Kaoru noticed him glance at Kamir who wore a challenging smirk. Yuki stood.

"To Kaoru and her new business. Genki de ni!" He raised his glass.

"Genki de ni!" Sara and Kamir said in unison. They took turns tapping glasses then took a large gulp.

Kaoru was the happiest she had been in a very long time.

 

Kamir hopped out of the car and Sara slid across the back seat.

"Thank you Yuki." She grinned and touched Kaoru. "I will find the list and call you."

"Thank you Sarua."

Kamir pulled her out of the car and shut the door. Yuki glanced back once as he pulled away just in time to see Kamir link his fingers with Sara's.

"Yuki, you do not like Kamir?"

"I do not know him."

"But, you do not think he is right for Sarua?" She stared out the window so as not to make him uncomfortable.

"I believe he is not serious. She needs someone who is ready to support a family." He had no idea why he was expressing himself so much. Maybe because he was miffed. Maybe it was the effects of the drink. More than likely, it was a bit of both.

"I think he is nice and will make her happy." she sat quiet a moment. "However, I think he may not be serious as well."

Yuki frowned, "Why do you think this?"

Kaoru finally turned to him, "He will have to go back to India before long and Sarua will not leave Japan."

 

"I mean it, he's so stiff." Kamir leaned against the shop door to hold it for Sara.

"He is, reserved." Sara laughed and walked past.

"I have asked myself a million times what brought you two together." He followed her as she walked through the shop, greeted her assistant and walk down the short hall to her clinic.

She turned around, "A karaoke joint."

"No." he laughed. "What was he doing in a karaoke bar?"

She sighed and put her hands on either side of her head. "I don't remember."

"You're adorable when you're drunk." He laughed and entered her space kissing the corner of her mouth.

"And you're a flagrant opportunist." She turned her head so that their lips connected and kissed him back. He was moving from introductory kisses to intermediary kisses. Two levels in one day wasn't bad. He had Kaoru and her Tequila Sunrise to thank for this. His lips moved more deliberately against hers as he toyed with them. He felt her hands rest against his chest. He placed his on either side of her head and then pulled back. building anticipation was the hardest part.

"Enough for today. More tomorrow." He backed away slowly with her hands in his.

"Oh, tomorrow, I can't." 

"Why?"

"Tomorrow my parents go to the Umezawas. We're supposed to all eat lunch together." Sara bit her bottom lip.

"Oh no, the dreaded meeting." He began to laugh. "Can I come?"

"Family only you interloper." She jacked her hands out of his, which only made him laugh more. 

"Where are they now? Sharpening their weapons?" He leaned on her lab table.

"No, they took Shouda to Universal Studios Japan."

"You didn't want to go and make some magic moments?"

"Those are the kind of magic moments best made with grandparents. He has unlimited energy for running around and they for spending money and indulging." She laughed.

"Does that mean you're free tonight?"

"It does not Mr. Opportunist. I think you've had enough for today." She began to push him out of her clinic.

"Okay, okay. One to get me through tomorrow?" He stopped at the door.

Sara kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Now go."

 

End Notes:

Thank you ladies!

Kamir is stepping up the heat! A bit too fast?

Jyuu (10) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Hello all! Please forgive my absence. I apologize greatly for not updating more frequetnly, however, have been in the middle of a bit of family crisis. I can only beg your forgiveness and post an update.

I hope to be better about updating this story because I love it and because of the overwhelming emails I've recieved from you the readers. I am gratified that you have enjoyed it so and so to please you all as well, I will try to get myself together enough to be more regular.

Thank you for your patience and kindness.

Puerta

 

"Well, now, this is a right expensive vehicle." Darren ran his hands over the soft leather interior of the E Class Mercedes Benz. He adjusted himself in the front passenger seat and smiled broadly. "Mr. Yukimoto's people don't want for cash, do they?"

"Grandpa, I told you, the house is like a museum and there are lots of servants and things I have to keep away from so I won't break em." Shouda sat in his grandma Percy's lap. He looked at his mom and grinned.

"Shouda, tell your grandma how to say, ‘nice to meet you' again." Percy gave him a squeeze.

"Hajimemashite."

"Hajimashta..."

"No, grandma, hajim-e-mashi-te."

"Jahimenachte," Darren practiced in the front seat. Shouda burst out laughing and leaned forward.

"Ha-hajime-mashit-e grandpa."

"Oh, hajime..."

"How do you say, ‘bold faced lie?'" Ward mumbled.

 

"Bod-man." Sara warned. Shouda was exhibiting no signs of nervousness at all. Lately, anything that involved him seeing his father made him ecstatic. Ward was his usual spectator-ready-to-turn-into-the-peanut-gallery self. The vibe she picked up from Darren Percy was that of a mission. They were calm enough, but then they always were before entering a battle. Sara prayed to the Lord not to let this lunch turn into a battle. If for no other reason, because Shouda would be there.

 

They pulled into the familiar curved driveway and stopped in front of the grand entrance. This time the front doors opened before they were out of the car. Two male servants quickly headed for the truck of the Mercedes and began unloading luggage. Another male servant stood just outside the door and two female servants stood inside. Shouda took Darren's hand with his right and Percy's with his left and headed up the stairs.

"Those are bonsai trees." He explained motioning with Darren's hand.

"You don't say. I thought they were smaller." Darren inspected one of the gigantic specimen carefully.

"Some types are very small and some even flower. Did you know that?"

"No, I did not." Darren squeezed Shouda's hand. "Is that something you learned up at that big fancy school of yours?"

"No, everyone knows that grandpa." Shouda shook his head.

"Did you hear that Percy? Everyone knows."

"I did." She adjusted her sunshades and smiled down at Shouda. Darren returned with a sour expression before Shouda pulled them into the genken.  Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa were standing in waiting. Yuki and Kaoru stood in front of them.

"Take off your shoes here and put those on." Shouda instructed and pointed to the mules waiting side-by-side.

 

Yuki had no idea how this would all turn out. His glance at Sara told him she was thinking the same thing. Shouda, however, seemed to be having the time of his life as he guided his grandparents. When he turned his attention to Yuki, his smile broadened even more and he came up and gave him a hug.

"Dad, we arrived safely. Grandpa likes the car you sent for us."

"I am gratified that he approved." He hugged his son in return and turned to Sara's parents. "Mr. and Mrs. Richards, welcome - to our-home." His welcome was in English and he bowed very low.

Darren took the lead and bowed. This time his bow was better. It was more at a thirty degree angle. Percy followed her husband. Shouda had earlier explain that the lower the bow, the more respect was demonstrated. Darren Percy had grumbled about it but took to practicing. It was a custom they could neither fathom nor let go of their own pride enough to completely comply with. Western cultures are not governed by physical displays of respect.

"Thank you young man. This must be your pretty little wife." He turned to Kaoru who bowed keeping her eyes lowered.

"Yes, this is - my wife, Kaoru." 

"Haijimemashite." Darren bowed slightly and Kaoru's surprise registered on her face. He pointed and chuckled at her to which she laughed discreetly and bowed again. She stepped aside and exchanged greetings with Percy before Yuki presented them to his parents.

"Father, mother, may I present Mr. Darren Richards and Mrs. Percy Richards." They both bowed after he finished his presentation in Japanese. He then addressed Darren Percy in English, "Mr and Mrs. Richards, my father Umezawa Kenji and my mother Umezawa Izumi." Again, another thirty degree bow and Mr. Umezawa stepped forward and shook Darren's hand.

"It is a pleasure to have you in our house Mr. Richards." He said in perfect English.

"Thank you, call me Darren." He said with a surprised smile. Mr. Umezawa approached Percy and extended his hand. When she offered hers, he took it and brought it toward his lips with a smile.

"A pleasure to meet you." He said before lightly touching it to them. Yuki's brow arched and he looked at Percy. For a moment she was shocked, she recovered quickly.

"Nice to meet you." She responded flatly.

"Allow my wife and I to show you your rooms."

Mr. Umezawa continued with Darren while Percy walked beside Mrs. Umezawa.

"Do you understand English too?" Percy looked at Yuki's mother expectantly who blinked a few times.

"No," and sped up.

 

Percy was in a quandary as to how she should take them. Mr. Umezawa with his smooth English and Mrs. Umezawa with her curt attitude. No wonder they had a selfish gigolo for a son. She observed that Darren was getting on well with Mr. Umezawa. They talked and laughed as they walked down the halls. They were shown into a very open room much like a living room. There was a bedroom off to one side and a bathroom to the other.

"I am sure you will be comfortable here." Mr. Umezawa inspected the rooms as he walked around. "Shall we see the reset of the house?" He led the way and Darren eagerly followed.

Percy had to admit the rooms were luxurious. Not that she and Darren didn't have money of their own, but she wondered how her very practical daughter ended up getting involved with the son of such a rich family. Sara had never hid him from them, in fact, she had spoken of him often. In her communications, he had always come across as being much like her daughter, that is to say, they suited each other. Percy never figured him for a rich man's son.

Meeting him at the airport and in the time they had spent together since, he seemed grounded, somewhat quiet, very patient and hard working. She would not say that she liked him, after all, he had impregnated her daughter and left her high and dry. Still... 

"Come."

The voice broke her out of her thoughts. She turned to see Mrs. Umezawa standing at the door.

"So you do know English."

"No."

"Then how do you know what I'm saying?" Percy put her hands on her hips.

"I guess." Mrs. Umezawa beckoned her with her hand impatiently. "The house." With that, she left. Percy sucked her teeth before leaving the room. For the first time since she arrived, she wished she could speak Japanese as well as Sara. She had a feeling she and this woman needed to get a few things straight.

 

Lunch was patterned after the Western style of eating. Although the food was Japanese, modifications were made to make it more palatable to the foreign tongue and forks and spoons as well as chopsticks were placed on the table. The conversation was a mixture of Japanese and English. Those fluent in both languages would fluctuate between the two depending on the intended audience. Yuki continued to persevere in his monotoned yet careful English. Mrs. Umezawa chose Japanese with English words spattered throughout. 

The air was pregnant with the charge that comes from a meeting of cultures. Awkwardness, frustration, insecurity, eagerness, the drive to communicate meeting all oncoming challenges until the participants begin let go of the tight hold they posses of their own traditions of thought and gradually let those of another in. 

 

"Well, I don't see any point in squeezing around the elephant in the room." Darren began as he finished off his water. Percy followed with a reverent sounding ‘hmm.' "Your son and my daughter have a child."

"That is correct." Mr. Umezawa nodded calmly. Mrs. Umezawa looked pensive.

"Your son is married to this very charming Kaoru." He smiled in her direction.

"Yes, they are married."

"What exactly is your plan of action here? Your thoughts as to how we should handle the situation?" He leaned back slightly in his chair and rested his hand on his thigh. Sara smiled at Shouda who was looking back and forth between his two grandfathers. 

"This is precisely what I wished to speak with you about Darren. I am glad that you have brought it up here so we all can hear the outcome. We wish to be a part of Shouda's life since we found out about him. I think we can say that we have grown fond of each other. Am I not right young Shouda?" He turned confidently to his grandson.

"Yes!" Shouda nodded vigorously.

"Good. We also wish to respect and support Sara's wishes. She has already outlined some of these to us."

"I'd say so." Percy lifted her chin.

"We are also committed to looking after her in anyway that becomes necessary."

"I see." Darren rubbed his finger back and forth under his bottom lip calmly looking at the table, then he looked Mr. Umezawa squarely in face. "I appreciate your hospitality and the good words you've given. I think I have Percy's absolute agreement when I say these feelings in short." Darren leaned forward and his forehead rippled as his brows arched. "We did not raise our daughter to be a strong free thinking black woman, do the dip and dodge to keep her away from useless Negros, educate her, spur and support her creativity and suffer the loss as she moved to the other side of the planet, for her to end up with your boot on her neck."

"Amen." Percy nodded her head and re-situated herself in her chair.

"Boot? What boot?" Mrs. Umezawa blinked and looked between her husband and Darren.

"Go on and translate that for her. While your doing that," he looked around for a servant and held up the an empty serving dish, "I'd like some more of the seaweed salad. Percy, we need to learn how to make this."

Mr. Umezawa interpreted his speech smoothly and quickly as he eyed a servant to fill his guests request. Then he turned from a disgruntled looking Mrs. Umezawa to Darren.

"That is exactly why my wife, who is at times...overzealous, has agreed to Sara's requests concerning Shouda. It is our hope that she will look over our failures in the past and continue to be as kind and thoughtful as she has been thus far." He smiled at Sara who smiled and lowered her eyes.

"That sounds right nice, don't you think so Percy?"

"I do, sounds pretty as a politician." She gave her brightest Atlanta smile.

 

***

 

Everyone stayed until late afternoon, then it was time to prepare. The Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa had invited Darren Percy to The Symphony Hall to enjoy a performance by the Ōsaka Philharmonic Orchestra. The Umezawas departed and Sara and Shouda walked Darren Percy back to their rooms. Shouda ran to help Ward inspect things while Sara stopped her mother and father at the door.

"Thanks dad." She gave him a warm hug and leaned back. "The way you let your feelings known was so familiar and strengthening. I miss that being away from you."

"Baby, you know you always have our support." Percy looked affectionately at her daughter and glided her fingers down Sara's face.

"I know, but its still nice to see it in action Darren Percy style." She laughed.

"What is this Darren Percy style?" Percy asked confused.

"What do you mean?" Darren concurred.

Sara smiled broadly, "Seriously? You don't know? That Atlanta bulldog with peach blossoms decorating its neck way you have of doing business."

"Don't talk such nonsense," Percy slapped the notion away with a flick of the wrist before roaming further into the room, "you and Ward always did have fanciful ideas about us."

Sara only laughed and called after Shouda.

"Come on then, grandpa and grandma have to get ready for the symphony."

 

Yuki looked up at the early evening sky. The dust particles in the air blazed a surreal purple flame across it. Some other feeling smoldered in his heart leaving a pulsating dull pain in its wake. He liked Mr. Darren and Mrs. Percy. They were much like Sara, open, honest and alive. They had accepted his parents honorably and were committed to respecting them in their own way. How different things would be if he had acted honorably in the past.

The front door opened and Sara, Ward and Shouda stepped out onto the porch.

"Dad," Shouda grabbed his hand, "you will walk us to the car?"

"Yes." He glance up at Sara as she closed the door softly behind her before turning to walk down the steps with his son. "Did you enjoy lunch?"

"I did enjoy it. Your dad and my grandfather get along very well." Shouda swung their hands back and forth as they walked.

"I think so too. It is good."

"I wonder if grandmother Richards and your mother will get along. They did not talk much." He looked up at his father.

"No, they did not. Some people need time to get better acquainted though. We must continue to be patient."

"I agree." The two men smiled at each other as they reached the car. Yuki bent down and gave his son a hug before ushering him into the back seat after Ward. Then he turned to Sara who discreetly closed the car door. "It is done."

"Yes, it is." They looked at each other.

"I think it was much better than at the airport."

"Oh, much." They laughed.

"You were very calm."

"So were you, but then, you usually are."

He looked embarrassed. "You mean boring."

"I mean calm." She said with a bit more force. She placed her hand on his cheek, "Yuki, you are handling this very well."

He went to reach for her hand, but changed his mind. "I should go and prepare." He smiled and nodded before opening the door for her. She glided in and he shut it after her. It was then that he noticed the warmth on his cheek reflected the feeling in his heart. They both pulsed with a painful energy.

 

***

 

The Umezawas and Darren Percy walk up the steps between the brilliant ivory columns of The Symphony Hall. Mr. and Mrs. Umezawa the epitome of refined Japanese elegance. Darren Percy the perfect representation of Atlanta's finest. Many heads turned as they walked into the receiving hall. An attendant waited to show them to their seats as they mingled with other attendees. 

Mr. Umezawa introduced them smoothy and self-confidently as the grandparents of his grandson Shouda Richards. Everyone was very polite and asked safe questions. Finally, they made their way with the attendant to their seats. The Umezawa family had two rows of permanent seats in the second box on the upper left side.

To her credit, when Percy found herself sitting next to Mrs. Umezawa she made another attempt to be friendly. After taking in the enormous flue pipe organ and wood façade that almost completely covered the wall behind the stage, she turned to the paternal grandmother of her grandchild.

"Do you like the symphony Mrs. Umezawa?"

"Of course, who does not like."

"You'd be surprised." Percy said flatly.

Mrs. Umezawa turned to her, "You do not like? But, Sara is so cultured for western woman of difficult origin."

"What?" Percy's head jerked toward the woman just as the lights lowered and the orchestra tuned together.

 

***

 

Shouda slept soundlessly in his bed while Sara and Ward talked of the day over another bottle of wine. This time, there were two glasses.

"I think there will be problems between ogre Umezawa and mom." Ward tipped his glass in Sara's direction as if to solidify his observation.

"You think?" Sara laughed. "Definitely."

"And what was the little rendezvous by the car between you and your baby's daddy?"

"Rendezvous? We simply spoke briefly of the evening and fortified each other resolve. It was more like a strengthening of allied forces."

Ward burst out laughing, "Good one. However, I don't remember seeing anything about Eisenhower caressing MacARthur's face anywhere."

Sara threw his pillow at him before laughing. "Subconscious gesture." They laughed for a bit before Ward became quiet again.

"Its too bad we can't knock off the wife."

"Bod-man. I have no desire to get rid of Kaoru. Don't even joke about it. Besides, I am with Kamir, they are married and I'm no home wrecker."

"Too bad about that too."

"Bod-man!"

"Do me a favor and pretend not to be bored when I fly out tomorrow. Oh and keep me posted. It's like a soap, clash of the cultures, four grandparents and a child out of wedlock."

"Fool." Sara inched up closer to him and put her arms around him. "I will miss you though."

"Likewise Sara...is there anymore wine?"

"What? No, say something full of mushy familial love." They laughed and squirmed.

"Hell, if you want mushy you got to give me more wine."

 

***

 

Percy threw her purse on the bed and stalked into the bathroom.

"Percy, you have been huffing and glaring and curving your face into that fake smile all evening. What is the matter with you?" Darren blinked after his wife with one hand on his hip.

Percy came charging back out of the bathroom. "That woman, that foreign, pale faced, insolent, squatty, rice chompen bullfrog of a woman said my baby was a westerner of difficult origin..."

"Wait a minute now."

"...and she implied that I was uncultured after assuming with her flat ass that I didn't like the symphony." She turned on her heels and plowed back into the bathroom with Darren close behind.

"Wait a minute Percy. Now, she could have said a lot worse..."

"Don't you give me the run around Darren Richards," Percy carefully pulled her blouse over her face and make-up before beginning to twist her dreads up, "the only reason she didn't was cause she didn't have the vocabulary."

"Why do you let yourself get so riled up by such a simple minded woman? I don't understand."

"Simple minded? Do you see my butt?"

"What?"

"I said do you see these large ham hocks I got back here? I know I got some junk in this truck just as well as I know that woman. Simple minded my large back Atlanta ass."

"Percy."

"I'm telling you right now Darren. I am keeping a jar of Vaseline ready whenever I am with her, because one day me and that woman are going to come to blows. Do you hear me?" She reached for her facial cleanser and jerked the lid off.

"All right baby, just calm down." Darren found himself slightly amused by the whole situation to tell the truth. It had been a while since this side of Percy came out. It brought back good memories of the Tuskegee University.

"She's a damn Japanese racist." Percy said jamming the toothpaste in the brush.

 

Jyuu ichi (11) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Thank you for your forgiveness and positive reviews. You guys are great! :)

Translations/Explainations:

Yakisoba - A noodle dish

Tennoji Park - Large park with temple and zoo in Osaka

Yubune - wooden tub for soaking in water after bath

Ryokan - Tradicional Japanese Inn

Onsen - Hot tubs or springs where the Japanese go to relax

Nabe - A hot pot meal usually like a soup consisiting of various foods

Shabu-Shabu - Nabe in which the meat and vegetables are dipped in the boiling soup then in a vinigar or sesimee sauce like fondue

Please excuse errors :)

 

"Kamir, are you listening to what I'm saying?"

"If the answer is ‘no,' then, no."

"I can't play hooky today..."

"There seems to be a problem with the connection, you keep breaking up."

"...I have a big project. There is much to do. I want to reaserch a little more, check on a few things; then this trip the Umezawas have planned." Sara sighed.

"I'm sorry, you said right now you wanted to go on a trip to Okinawa and play in the sand?"

Sara rolled her eyes.

"Well, that's what I'm talking about! Why don't we just start with lunch, okay? I'll be there in a minute."

"Kamir!" 

The line went dead. Everyday since the meeting of the quasi-in-laws he had been taking her to lunch. He was consuming that middle of the day free time she usually reserved for getting lost in work. She liked that time of day where she could just forget about everything and the delightfully monotonous world of scoring, folding, arranging and printing. Spending the time with Kamir was not all bad, he was very entertaining and she really enjoyed his company. Today, she was going to have to lay down the law though. She had work to do.

 

"When I said I wanted to go to lunch, I meant out to a restaurant." Kamir poked at his yakisoba and frowned slightly. He glanced at Sara and noticed it was having no affect on her. She could be so cruel.

He had appeared at her job and strolled into her clinic, according to plan. He had flirted a bit, kissed her lips and buttered her up - as planned. He had demanded that she go with him even pulled her gently off her stool, as outlined in said plan. He had received rejections repeatedly. This totally disrupted the plan sending it to a screeching halt. In the end she had compromised by ordering out and inviting him to lunch with her in the clinic, as he was so inclined to eat. She could not, would not go out. 

"I'm sorry Kamir, I have a very large time specific order. You are fun and all, but I can't shirk my responsibilities."

"You think I'm fun?"

She looked up at him, "Of course."

"That's good anyway." He took his time watching her cut cardboard into thick strips and was hit by a very bright idea. "Go to dinner with me." Seeing as she was being stubborn about lunch. 

Her attention was again focused on him. "What?"

"Dinner, you know that meal people eat at night."

"But..."

"Shouda has two sets of grandparents and his father. Surely no one will think twice about babysitting him while you take some time to relax." This was perfect. He had been thinking of a way to move things to the next level. With Darren Percy's ascendancy, Shouda the nucleus of the her orb of life, the on going battle of Umezawa and Yuki surfacing every few minutes ‘for Shouda's sake,' things were rather complicated. Did he sound bitter? Perhaps he was exaggerating slightly.

He gave her his best seductive look with a little puppy-dog eyes thrown if for good measure.

Come to think of it, her parents were staying at the Umezawa's, she said her brother had left for London or something and if he could get her to deposit Shouda somewhere he could have her all to himself. "We could take a stroll through the Keitakuen Gardens in Tennoji Park, then eat dinner and see where the night takes us."

 

To say that Sara was surprised by his suggestion would be a slight understatement. Honestly, she had not thought of them getting together alone at night. At all. Strangely the idea both scared and attracted her. Seriously dating was low on her list of priorities. Shouda consumed her time and what he didn't take up was filled with work. She wasn't unhappy about her life and didn't have much occasion to feel lonely. She creased her brow. Had given very little thought to whether she felt lonely.

"We won't do anything you don't want to." When she focused back on Kamir, his hands were in the air as if to stabilize the atmosphere. 

"If I have free time though, I really should be working on this wedding order."

"So let Shouda stay with...someone for two nights. One so you can go out me and the other so you don't feel bad for going out with me." He reached out and touched her nose with a laugh.

"Are you ever serious?"

"No, but that's what I think you like about me. Come on Sara, go on a real date with me. I'm a good looking guy. I'm fun. We get along well. I like you." The puppy-dog eyes popped out again.

"Only God knows why." She scrunched her face.

"What do you mean? You're an anomaly." All she could see in Kamir's face was blank incredulity and disbelief. Sometimes his form of banter made her question his sincerity. She had the impression that even though he was always genuine, whether he was genuinely serious or genuinely fooling around was up for dispute. Sara usually opted for genuinely fooling around and treated him accordingly. There were a few exceptions. 

"I am the most average, average of all average people." She really felt this way. If she could accomplish something, anyone could. She had no feelings of superiority nor did she feel inferior. 

"There is nothing average about you. Don't get shallow on me. That's one thing I have never thought you were."

Again, she would be extremely flattered if there wasn't that hint of a playful smirk dancing around the corners of his mouth. It was an enticing mouth.

"Everyone is shallow to one extent or another, Kamir. Life would be too heavy a burden to carry otherwise." Sara laughed.

"You know what I mean. An expatriate African American woman with a successful business in a culture totally different from her own who has raised a child singlehandedly; this woman would not be caught up on things like whether heads turned when she entered the room because of her flawless look in Zac Posen or the shape of her legs in the latest design in kitten heels." He had at some point rounded the clinic table and stood near. He tilted her head back gently and slowly lowered his enticing lips to hers. He kissed her lightly.

"You would be much happier if I were in kitten heels." Sara smiled. He kissed her again.

"I would not." He lifted her off the stool and stood her against the table and kissed her again with more fervor. She slid her hands up his back as he briefly released her mouth.

"If its any consolation, I think Zac's clothes are beau..."

Sara had no idea what to think. The strong grip of his arms circling around her. They cradled her, protecting her from the outside world. His firm warm body pressed against hers, she leaned against it for support. Kamir's enticing mouth currently exploring the depths of her own. It was overwhelming, all consuming. It demanded a response, pushing at a door deep inside her that had not been opened for so long and when it was breached, that provocative part of her stretched where it slept no longer and stood pulsating slowly. Lighting its dark space little by little until she shivered against him. She gasped when he moved to her ear and cradled the back of his neck softly before turning her head to take his mouth back.

The distinct shrill of her phone ceased her movements and she moaned slightly.

 

No, no, no, Kamir cursed the person on the other end of the line to hell, to rot, to endless torture and misery as Sara fought for control in his arms. The soft hair of her bang tickled the corner of his eye as she pressed her forehead against his and took a breath. He watched her bottom lip disappear between her teeth before popping out again, glistening, inviting. Her hand mindlessly trailed down the side of his face and pressed against his chest. She turned in his arms without looking at him and picked up her phone.

Kamir had figured there had to be something inside Sara worth getting to. More to her than was visible on the surface and he had not been wrong. The intensity of what lay there was what he had miscalculated. He didn't want the fire to wane. He glided his hands over her stomach and up the sides of her torso before kissing the back of her neck.

"This is Sara speaking, how may I assist you?" There was a slight pause during which he could hear an indistinct voice then she stiffened. "Yuki..."

How was it that this man always surfaced when he didn't want him around? 

 

"Sarua how are you?" 

"I am fine." She felt guilty. Why should she feel guilty? "Is there something you need?"

"Ah, yes, I would like to collect Shouda from school today. Would you mind?"

"Shouda. No, that is fine. I am sure he will be happy to see you." She shouldn't feel guilty. Yuki was married and they were doing better and she could kiss whomever she wanted, whenever she wanted to do it. She rubbed her forehead and Kamir's hand began to drop from her waist. She grabbed if forcefully and put it back holding it there.

"Good, thank you. I..."

"About Shouda, Yuki, would it be too much of an inconvenience if he spent the night with you?" Sara closed her eyes at the long pause that followed.

"Of course not Sarua. I will invite him to stay with me this evening. He has sufficient clothes for this evening and tomorrow in his room at my flat. It is not an inconvenience but a pleasure." She knew he wanted to ask, perhaps he already knew, but he didn't say anything.

"Thank you Yuki." As she hung up the phone, her heart beat wildly as if she had just lied to her mother about spending the night with a friend to study when in actuality she was going to a party or club. This only made her more frustrated. Kamir stirred respectfully behind her as if he knew she needed a moment to come to grips with her decision.

When she turned around, he had the most adorable smile on his face so she kissed it.

"A relaxing walk and dinner sound perfect. However, you have to let me get some work done now."

He pulled her into him and bent his head down to her ear. "I will be back at five." Then he let her go. 

 

***

 

Yuki Umezawa was perplexed as he waited outside the Academy doors for his son to appear. If he was correct, if he still remembered with enough accuracy, Sara was flustered. Had something happened at work? Was something wrong with her heavy order? He knew her present project was very large and very important. Once she successfully completed it, she would rival some of the oldest, most established venues or her kind. It was already an upset decision amongst the elite.

He had heard that she was only given the opportunity because someone had jokingly mentioned her to someone. Since they would be interviewing all day, they might as well take a peek at the Westerner whose work had popped up here and there in their circles. He had afterwards heard that the whole party had been blown away. Of course they had been. Sara was amazing and her work impeccable. She had a good eye, a discerning nature and a determination that could rival his mother, though in a more credible way.

Something still nagged at him though.

 

The water dripped from one of the hand-held shower heads that sat side-by-side in and L shape in the bathing area. There was a sereneness that surrounded them, the intermittent drip, the light rain beating on the floor to ceiling windows that bent and formed a glass gazebo around the warm placid water in the large wooden yubune off to their right. It was a happy fondling rain that slid in tentacle like patterns down the windows merging and separating as they trailed down to were they saturated the patio below. 

It was an elongated echo of the two bodies merging and writhing on one of the stools in the bathing area. 

Yuki sat on the short stool with Sara straddling his lap. They had come for a rejuvenating trip to the Ryokan to enjoy surrounding nature and, of course, the spectacular onsen that the traditional Japanese inn boasted. They were supposed to shower, thoroughly washing before entering the warm relaxing water. They only had it for an hour and a half before the next reservation. After they finished washing Sara looked too delicious kneeling between his legs. There was a large adoring smile on her face and her eyes sparkled. Her wet hair was pulled on top of her head with a butterfly clip, but some ringlets rested on the back of her neck and adhesively clung to her ears. He cupped her face and kissed her.

It started out innocent enough, but as he took more from her she opened up. It was like feeling a flower bloom under your fingers. The soft peddles spreading under you touch, pushing with imperceptible might to reveal the stamens. A myriad filaments, firm and inviting, giving under your touch, topped with anthers littered with puffs of pollen coating your skin. Everything open, everything exposed, innocently willingly; a paradox to her usually calm behavior.

Something that boiled underneath, watching waiting to be tapped and exposed. It was hard not to drink her dry when she was like this. Yuki clutched her thighs, his hands sliding over her slick skin. He pulled her against him. It. 

There was a discreet rap on the door. His face was buried in the curve of her neck. He felt her shake her head before gulping and clearing her throat.

"Yes?"

"Is everything to your liking?" a female voice answered from the other side.

"Yes, everything is wonderful, simply wonderful, as expected." Her arms remained in their position encircling his shoulders.

"I am very happy. Please enjoy."

"Thank you." She waited a moment then turned her face into his neck. He lifted his head and noticed a slightly rosy hue across the skin of her face. "Do you think she knows?"

"It does not matter." He kissed her chin. She began to relax. "I did detect a bit of fluster in the tone of your voice." She tensed back up and he smiled.

"No, Yuki." She hid her face in her hands and he picked her up in his arms and carried her to the yubune.

 

The chatter of students broke his thoughts and he scowled. Surely it had not been that type of flustered. He felt the scowl drop from his face and at the same moment a presence. He looked down into the adoring eyes of his son. They were filled with concern. Yuki remembered that it was Sara who was supposed to pick their son up.

"Shouda," he said hastily, "I begged your mother to let me have you to myself today. You will spend the night with me. What do you think of that?" He rustled the curls on his son's head.

"I like the idea very much, but why do you look sad?"

Yuki blinked rapidly and smiled. "Did I look sad?"

"Yes"

"If you think I am sad because I we will spend tonight together you are greatly mistaken. I wish we could spend more time together and I am grateful to Sara for letting me have you." He bend over and touched his forehead to Shouda's. "What is more, I have a surprise for you."

"A surprise?" Shouda's concerned expression vanished and was replaced by unabashed excitement.

"Yes, but first, what do you say to tempura?"

"Can we get vegetables and seafood?"

"Yes"
"Okay!"

They situated themselves in Yuki's car and he pulled off.

"I wish mother could come, she likes tempura." Shouda glanced at his father.

"We will go together sometime, the three of us." Yuki did think it would be pleasant if Sara could come with them. Like a family.

"You don't have to worry father, I like it when the three of us are together too. I told mother I would like a brother or sister."

Yuki peered at his son who was manipulating the GPS panel. 

"Really, and what did your mother say?" He said much more calmly than he felt.

"She said to concentrate on making friends at school." The pulsating peg on the screen changed from red to blue and continue to mimic the movements of their car through the streets.

"I think that is an excellent suggestion." Yuki concentrated on driving. The thought of having some other man replace him as father and stay by Sara's side during the pregnancy and birth, to do everything he did not, made him scowl again. 

Not to mention conception.

 

***

 

The sun still held an imperial position in the sky as Sara and Kamir walked through the formal section of the gardens. Very symmetrical in form one side mirrored the other line for line, curve for curve. If there were fuchsia flowers over here than the same existed over there. The slight decline to the patio gave a panoramic view, nothing hidden or secret. They moved from this area down the stone walk and happened upon the view of the temple at the water's edge. A low bridge connected it to the other side of the pond, they stood perpendicular to it. The rustic red temple seemed surreal set against the more modern high-rises stationed behind it as if it had been graphically imposed below the modern skyline.

Still it held its station, a reminder of the past, cultures gift to the youth of more modest days. Surrounding trees hid it partially from view and awkward fountains spouted water in a constant wide ring around their mouths.

Walking further brought them to the Japanese garden, simplistic, well manicured, meticulous in its design yet indigenous to the human eye. Varieties of pines groomed in every form imaginable met them at every turn. Lily pads congregated in familial groups in different parts of the large pond. Beneath them enormous Koi fish glided about continuously. Every now and then, they caught a glimpse of simple stone shrines against green backdrops or connecting peninsulas of foliage.

Kamir did not press his presence on Sara, but he never let her forget it.

They decided on nabe for dinner with Sara introducing Kamir to shabu-shabu. They laughed at how many times he dropped his meat and vegetables. He persevered with his chopsticks and by the time they were satisfied had become reasonably proficient. 

 

She did enjoy his company. In the gardens and over dinner. He was fun and alive in the very way she had been dead for so many years. Perhaps it was that or the kiss earlier or the sake that made her feel liberal, but she held hands with him as they walked from the subway station to her apartment. Sara relished in his presence and the intimacy that had burgeoned between them. She had forgotten what it was like to be accompanied by a man.

The first odd detail that should have captured her attention was Mr. Shinohara standing outside his door as they departed the elevator. She didn't think to check her watch, only smiled warmly at him.

"Good evening Shinohara-san, this is Kamir Dubashi a friend of mine." She and Kamir showed their respect.

"Dubashi-san, it is a pleasure to meet any friend of Sarua-san. Where are you from?"

"Mumbai, India."

"Do you live in Japan?"

"No, I'm here on business."

"You met Sarua-san in India perhaps?"

"Ah, no, we were introduced by the firm I'm negotiating with."

Shinohara responded with a grunt. "How long will you be in Japan?"

Kamir shrugged, "As long as it takes us to negotiate an agreement."

Another grunt and his attention was focused on Sara.

"Sarua-san, young Shouda is not with you?"

"Shouda is with is father this evening."

"Yes, Umezawa Yukimoto. A fine man, I am glad to see him taking his responsibilities seriously. A very fine man." He looked at Sara expectantly.

"Y - yes." Suddenly there was a slight shadow over her heightened sense of frivolity.

Mr. Shinohara patted her arm gently and nodded his approval. "Have a pleasant evening." With that he entered his home and shut the door.

The second event that should have struck her as odd was the lengthy conversation he had with Kamir.

"Personable neighbor." Kamir moved them to her door where she fumbled with her keys before letting them in. As soon as the door shut and their shoes were off, she found herself enveloped in Kamir's arms. Yes, she had forgotten what it was like to be an object of desire.

They stumbled through the room loosening clothes, becoming tangled together.

Yet the shadow lurking in the back of her mind expanded up her cranium to the backs of her eyes and down her spine. Shouda was safe with his father and yes, his father was a good man. Yuki was a good man. He was proving to be an excellent father and respectful partner. He consulted her on everything dealing with Shouda. 

She somehow landed on the couch.

He sometimes called and asked about some of Shouda's preferences, embarrassment dripping from his voice. He suffered it all. Shouda was happier than he had ever been, he loved his father to distraction. Sara smiled to herself. Something struck her. She wanted to see them together. How did they interact with each other?

"Sara?"

"Huh?" She looked up into Kamir's amused face and realized he was lounging patiently, eyes trained on her face. "What happened?"

"You started making strange noises and were staring off into space with a smile on her face."

"I did?" She looked apologetic and caressed his face. Raising up on her elbows, she kissed his pouting lips and laughed. "I'm sorry."

His arm circled her back as he responded. "Its all right." He pulled her into him.

All of a sudden it dawned on her.

"Why was Shinohara outside his door at this time of night?"

Kamir stopped mid-nibble.

"They never leave their house late at night." She plopped back and bit her nail in thought. He also held a conversation with Kamir. He never did that with Yuki yet he praised Yuki and enquired after Shouda. Shouda. "The last time they were out this late was when I collapsed in the hall. Shouda came early and I was having complications. It was somewhat of a miracle." She looked at Kamir. "You don't think something is wrong with Shouda do you?"

She scrambled off the couch and grabbed the phone before he could answer. Why had he spoken to Kamir? Why had he mentioned Yuki? Shouda was safe, wasn't he? She clutched the phone with worry waiting for Yuki to answer.

"Mush mush." His calm steady voice both alleviated and agitated her nerves.

"Yuki?"

"Sarua? What is the matter?"

"Is Shouda okay?"

"Shouda? Yes, he is fine. We are playing Go and eating swee... (Dad...) ...we are eating. Is something worrying you?"

Kamir raised himself from her couch in her peripheral vision and she turned to watch him gather his things.

"Er...well..." She covered the mouth piece. "Kamir."

"No, its okay. The mood is over for the night I think." He walked to her and kissed her forehead. "I wish you were mine," he whispered against it.

"Whose am I?" She looked at him puzzled. 

"Shouda's mostly." He retreated to the door and as he let himself out promised, "I'll call you. Thanks for this evening."

Sara violently rubbed her free hand across her face and groaned.

"Sarua?" The phone called and she sighed.

"Yuki, I am here. You sound as if the two of you are having a good time." She smiled.

"Are you enjoying yourself Shouda? Sarua is worried." She could tell he turned slightly from the phone to ask.

(Yeeeesssss! Dad bought tempura...)

"Sweet cakes too?" She teased Yuki.

He had the decency to cough. "Well, yes. His eyes get so bright we he sees them." She could hear his sheepish grin through the phone.

"I know."

"So you are relieved now?"

"Yes, tell him I miss him."

"Sarua says she misses you Shouda."

(Come over mother. We are going to look at my album.)

"Really?" Sara smiled.

"Yes, the videos you arranged." There was a pause. "Would you like to come?"

A brief mental battle broke out. She had just been making out with Kamir on her couch. Now she would run to Yuki's flat? There was so much to think about and not think about. There was Kamir and Yuki, Kaoru and Shouda. But, she really would like to watch the video clips with Yuki and Shouda. Everything swirled and blended into a nondescript mental soup. It was unappetizing. 

"Perhaps Kaoru..."

"She is with friends this evening. Sarua, it is okay for you to come."

So, she pushed it away.

"Very well."

 

End Notes:

Thanks ladies!

Jyuu ni (12) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

So, got a lot happening this chapter. I'm all over the place. Thanks for the reviews too, I will be starting on those soon, replies that is.

I don't think there is anything new here that needs to be explained.

Thanks for reading my story and please excuse my errors.

 

Kamir ran his hand through his hair as he walked amongst the people. Here he was, alone, in Ōsaka walking the streets when he should have been somewhere in between Sara's legs. Perhaps that was a bit crass. If only she was single. If she was single, she would be wrapped tight around him calling to the Gods in appreciation. However, she was in her apartment alone worried about her son.

Maybe he should have stayed, but really, what was the point if her mind wasn't with them? She was the first woman with a kid he had ever attempted to woo. Even so, that contributed to his respect for her. 

He smiled to himself. If only he had gotten laid! Damn, he was up for it.

"Dubashi-san?"

He turned his head in surprise. She looked startled.

"Kaoru-san? What are you doing here?"

"I just finished a meeting about my business." She looked embarrassed.

"How is that going?" They began to walk together.

"Very well, thank you Dubashi-san."

He leaned closer.

"Call me Kamir, please." She lowered her eyes and smiled in response. "Would you like to celebrate your success?" Again, she appeared startled and her cheeks burned softly. "A drink, my treat. I had plans but they fell through. What do you say?" He could see her wheels turning in thought. She seemed to be fighting something as she bit her lip. Finally, she looked him in the eyes and smiled brightly.

"I would like that, yes."

 

***

 

The whole thing was surreal to Sara. She was going to Yuki's flat. After taking a quick shower, she donned a comfortable pair of short-leg pants and three quarter shirt. She messed about with her now shoulder length hair finally slapping on headband and pushing back up on her head. She pushed her feet into some flats and after taking one last look around her apartment closed the door quietly behind her.

It amazed her how there was no need for her to think about which train to take. She swiped her train pass through the sensor and walked through the turnstile to the platform for the brown train. There were already passengers waiting in a uniform line so she took her place as it arrived and waited patiently with the rest of the ongoing passengers as the outgoing stepped off. As soon as they passed, they on filed in, the doors shut and the train lurched forward.

This train was taking her to Yuki's flat. She glanced at the riders who sat as if this was not the monumental event that is was. As if she were totally overreacting to buzz with excitement and nervousness. As if she were going to meet a friend for beef buns instead of her ex-lover and father of her child. As if it was not the first time in eight years she went to his apartment. How time did change things. Who would have thought she would be in this situation. Sara switched trains as if going to his home was the most natural thing in the world and emerged from the station instinctively starting the block and half walk to his building.

She noticed the changes. The trees were much larger now. Some of the stores she remembered were gone and new ones stood in their places. The old street lights had been replaced with new one, no doubt more streamlined and economical. As she entered the building she told the guard her name and who she was visiting. He picked up the phone. In the past, she could walk through to the elevator with a brief wave to the guard. Now he politely detained her as he confirmed approval from Yuki.

As the elevator doors opened on Yuki's floor she looked up to see Shouda waiting with a big smile.

"Mom, you're here." He grabbed her hand and tugged her down the hallway to Yuki's door which was wide open. Yuki stood holding the door nob.

"Oh, hello." She smiled 

"Sarua"

Shouda pulled her into the flat.

"Excuse the intrusion." She half stumbled after her son a bit embarrassed.

"We have not started yet. We were waiting for you." He pulled her to the couch and called his dad. There the three sat with Shouda in the middle. No onlooker would ever believe they were not a family.

They started with Shouda in hospital. Sara stood in a robe and waved at Shouda on the other side of the glass. The camera zoomed in on her worried look and then at Shouda squirming around in his crate.

"Mom, you waved and I was not paying attention. Sorry." He grabbed her hand.

"Do not worry." Sara squeezed it.

Next, the camera focused on a hospital door as it opened and zoomed in on Mr. Shinohara sitting in a chair with his eyes closed. In his lap he cradled a wide eyed Shouda. His head was tucked under Shinohara's chin and his little butt sat in the bends of Shinohara's elbows as he hugged himself. Shouda's hair sat straight up and his little fingers opened and closed a fraction at intervals. The lens turned to Sara as she sat in bed asleep, her head resting on Darren's shoulder as he lounged beside her working a crossword puzzle.

"Shinohara!" Shouda pointed and laughed. "I am so small."

"You were a little small, but you recovered in no time." Sara ruffled his hair.

The clip switched to the Richard's home. Sara walked passed in mircomini braids cradling a phone between her ear and shoulder. She glanced behind her and smiled. The camera descended to Shouda in a walker smiling up as his mother. He trailed behind her across the floor then they both disappeared. Moments later Sara, still talking on the phone, passed through the living room. Shouda marching behind her looking at the backs of her legs.

Whomever directed the camera switch his position and sat facing the kitchen. Sara walked in view with Shouda following, hands stretched out as if walking a tightrope. She stopped and he ran into her calves. She hooted and dropped the phone. Shouda leaned over as if to pick it up, but over extended himself and toppled over head first.

(Watch'im now) Darren commanded with a chuckle from thin air. Shouda cried and Sara swooped him up as she laughed.

"Its all right Shouda." She cooed. "You better get used to falling right now, there is a lot more where that came from. The important thing is to shake it off," she shook him gently and he smiled with watery eyes, "lift your head up," she kissed him under his round little chin and blew into his baby fat eliciting an eruption of giggles, "and keep on keeping-on." Sara spun him in a circle and put him right back in his walker after turning it upright. 

The camera zoomed in on startled Shouda as he found himself in the traitorous contraption again. Sara's legs walked off the screen and Shouda looked up, took one step then another and picked up speed as he followed his beloved beacons. The camera recorded his half run until they turned a corner.

"Wow! I took a nose dive." Shouda cackled between his parents on the sofa.

"You took all kinds of dives. Nose, swan, back flips, cannon balls, belly flops, everything before you learned how to walk and run properly." Sara laughed. She noticed that Yuki laughed too, but not the laughter of remembering good memories. It was the laughter of looking at someone else enjoy life or pure entertainment laced with longing. Her heart constricted and before she brain sent the ‘abort' signal to her arm, she had rested it on the couch behind Shouda and feathered her fingers through Yuki's hair from his temple to the base of his neck.

He turned to her and she smiled reassuringly. His eyes dropped then met her again. A small smile curved his lips and he gave a quick nod. He then put his arm around Shouda and squeezed him. Shouda looked up.

"I am sure I did the same thing many times as well. The advice Sarua gave is very appropriate. You must remember it always." Yuki squeezed him again and looked back at the TV.

 

Putting his arm around Shouda is not what Yuki wanted to do at that moment. Sara's touch made his whole head tingle. It made his hands itch and his stomach jump. His feet shifted on the floor and his hips twitch. He had been keenly aware of her since she walked in the door and now it magnified. What he wanted to do was grab her hand and kiss it. To pull it around his neck and settle his head in curve of hers. To wrap his arms around her and let the feel of her sooth his nerves. His aching heart. His battered pride. His guilty conscious.

He want to whisper his thanks into the warm skin at the base of her neck. To thank her for making this scrapbook so that he could catch up on some of the missed moments. Then thank her for allowing Shouda to enter his life. For giving birth to him. For caring for him.

Instead, he squeezed his son with the intensity of emotion he felt for Sara and looked at the television. He stared at it. Bore holes in it. He was afraid to look back at Sara even though he knew her eyes continued to roam his visage. Watching for his weakness and insecurity. Watching so that she could provide strength. She was expert at reading him and he feared that if he looked at her now, she would see that he... He closed his eyes against it. 

 

***

 

Kaoru took another look at the lounge to which Kamir had guided her. The interior was Baroque in design. Massive ornate furniture, luxurious textiles, marble and bronze clad walls, woodcarving, plaster work, gilt bronzes, mirrors and oil paintings at every turn. The total opposite of Japanese minimalism and efficiency. Still, she was excite to be in a place she would never normally go, with a man that was nothing like her husband.

They sat at a small table situated just right of one of enormous mirrors. Hand size cherubs floated around the refections delicate, perpetually gilt in bronze. She tried to make herself as comfortable as possible in the large wingback chair, the brightly colored upholstery gave softly under her weight. At her urging, Kamir ordered something for her to try when the waiter inquired as to drinks.

"So, I take it business is going well?" Kamir sat back in his large chair. Kaoru noted that it never mattered where she saw him, he always looked unaffected and immensely handsome.

"Yes, both Yuki and Sarua have been a great help. I feel that it will not be too long before I am officially a business owner." She took the glass that was placed before her and looked at the clear liquid.

"Scotch and tonic." Kamir grabbed his own and lifted it into the air. "To a new beginning?"

"Yes. A new beginning." She took a sip and coughed faintly. It was strong.

"If you do not like it, we can order something else." Kamir sat up attentively.

Kaoru shook her head and pressed her fingers to her mouth. "No, I will drink it." She smiled and took another sip. Kamir laughed lightly at her expression before pitching the rest of his down his throat.

"Shall we get something to eat?" Kaoru nodded and he raised his hand for the waiter. He ordered hors d'oeuvre and turned his attention back to her.

"How is Sarua?" She felt herself begin to relax and pushed back in her chair.

"She is home tonight."

"Perhaps we should have invited her. Yuki is home with Shouda. I like Shouda. He is a very nice boy." She ended a little surprised at her rambling and smiled.

"That he is, and he loves his father. Yuki is doing very well for himself." Did she detect a bit of sarcasm? 

"You do not like Yuki?" She inquired boldly.

"I like him just fine. He is an honorable fellow, responsible." He stole a glance at her, "boring."

Kaoru laughed before leaning forward, "I think so too. But, he is not bad." She watched Kamir's eyebrows rise and a smirk spread across his face.

"So tell me," two plates and a small basket of crispy toasted bread-lets were set on the table as well as a small oblong serving dish of whipped salt cod gratin. Kaoru's empty glass was whisked away and replaced. "Where do you fit into what happened between Yuki and Sara?"

"Well...." Kaoru was at yet another crossroads. She felt a pull between her loyalty to the Umezawa family and her own independence. There was also the new road of friendship she had embarked on with Sara and another path involving the new understanding between herself and Yuki. She was reminded of Sara's honesty when she herself had confronted her about Yuki. To new beginnings. "Yuki and I were engaged before he met Sarua."

"I see."

"It was an empty engagement. More for our parents than ourselves. We both felt we had to comply with tradition. At some point, he met Sarua." She took a bite of her biscuit smeared with gratin cod.

"I think at a karaoke bar. I'd love to see Yuki in a karaoke bar." Kamir laughed and prepared his own finger food.

"Yes." She laughed with him. "She did not know he was engaged though." She reminded him soberly. 

"What about Yuki?" He reached to make anther one.

"I think that is more complicated. I can not condemn him, in fact, I understand very well what he might have been thinking." Kamir glanced at her and she trained her eyes on her drink. She calmly picked it up and took a sip. "I believe his parents became aware of the seriousness of their relationship. Yuki told me that they mention knowing about it for some time, but thought it was a passing affair. His parents demand that he stop seeing her and he did."

"Coward." Kamir announced before finishing off his drink.

"Perhaps. He did not know Sarua was pregnant. They never spoke again until we all met at the marshal arts exposition my husband sponsors. Shouda is a pupil at his training center. They knew each other before Yuki knew he was his son. He found out and you know the rest."

"Sara had no idea of his social class?"

"Yuki said she did not."

Kamir quirked a brow. "You and Yuki have spoken extensively about the situation."

"We are closer than we have ever been." She countered.

"Meaning you are in love?" Kaoru could not help noting the sarcasm in Kamir's voice. She felt she was right in her assumption. Kamir did not think much of Yuki. She wondered if it was because of Sara.

"Meaning we are close."

He picked up his napkin and slid it over his lips before sitting back comfortably in his chair. "So why are you here with me?"

"Because you invited me." She paused. "You have been very obvious in your pursuit of Sarua. Why are you here with me?"

 

***

 

As awkward as the situation was, Sara felt strangely at ease. She was again in Yuki's kitchen preparing something to eat. How many times had she done this in the past? This time she was hungry. They had watch about an hour of the videos before Shouda zonked out. She and Yuki had watched a few more together. Yuki was on the couch with Shouda's head in his lap. 

She stirred the miso soup, tofu and noodles. She had also put in shards of cabbage, carrots and chives. The agitated miso swirled around in a cloud before settling back towards the bottom of the small pot. She turned off the heat, ladled a bit into two bowls and put them on a tray with chopsticks and Japanese style porcelain soup spoons. She let it cool while she cleaned up debris and then took the tray to the coffee table in front of the couch.

Seeing Yuki watch the video had filled her with a certain melancholy. She wanted to comfort him, support him. Let him know that she appreciated his efforts.

"It really was the cutest thing." Sara handed him a bowl and chopsticks. "Whenever I would talk to him, he would smile. So, I would lift the spoon to his mouth and he would open it and then I would talk to him and he would look at me and smile. I would move the food to his mouth again and he would concentrate and open his mouth, but when I told him to ‘open wide' or ‘eat up', he would smile. It got to the point that he would look between me and the food as if he had no clue what to do next." She chuckled and popped a cube of tofu into her mouth. Yuki slurped his noodles while his shoulder's shook.

"You always did add a mass of noodles Sarua." He said after wiping his mouth.

"I know, sorry." She shrugged.

"It is very good." Shouda's head stirred in his lap and he lifted the bowl. A few seconds later he looked at Sara and smiled. She adjusted herself and hooked his knees over her thigh. "From the video, the delivery was not easy. You stayed a few days in hospital."

Sara regained eye contact. "There were complications, I almost lost him. The doctors said I could have died as well. After the birth I was very weak. It was all I could do to nurse at first. Then I would take short walks to see him."

"I should have been there."

"Yes, you should have." Yuki's head shot up. "I wanted you there more than anyone else. But the Shinohara's were there. They saved both our lives. Mother and father came shortly after and the medical team was very competent. I was in good hands."

"I am sorry Sarua..."

"I did not say that because I wanted an apology or to make you feel guilty. I said it because it is the truth. For the longest time after we parted in this flat," she looked around, "I wanted you to come to me, call me, send me a note. When I found that I was pregnant I want to run to you and tell you. I imagined that you would come back to me. That we could be together. But I did not come to you because I was afraid your family would tell you not to acknowledge the baby and you would obey or that they would want me to get rid of him. Worse case scenario, you would reject me again. I did not think I could take it. I knew I had the means to raise Shouda on my own and I did." Sara was surprised to find a lone tear gliding down her cheek.

"I do not blame you for those feelings Sarua. In rejecting you, the way I abandoned you I belied the very principles I was trying to follow, that of honor, responsibility, decency and tradition. No one could blame you for the way you handled it." Yuki held her gaze and smeared the tear across her cheek with his thumb. "I would not have rejected you. I am not sure that the result would have been better though."

Sara understood. In accepting the situation there would have been a mountain of other challenges that both of them may not have had the maturity to weather successfully. The main components would still have existed. He was engaged, an engagement that she may have broken up, his family would not have been accepting, she would still have been subjected to the original rejection and therefore detrimentally insecure perhaps. Sara nodded her head and lifted the bowl to her mouth. The soup was warm and soothing as it swirled down her throat.

"Meeting you, I realized that I had my head buried in the sand all of my life. I enjoyed the happiness and freedom; the feeling of standing on my feet, instead of kneeling on all fours, that came with being with you. My legs were shaky, however, and when my parents confronted me that evening, I was knocked down. I was unsure that if I tried to stand back up I could accomplish it and remain so." Sara watched Yuki gaze down at his son and caress his cheek and forehead. He moved some of his curls around and taking Shouda's wrist in his hand, lifted it to his mouth. 

He kissed it. "I should have tired."

"I would have helped you."

"I know. Molded by eight years of guilt, heartache and having you here now, I know."  

 

He had allowed himself to wipe her tear, but no more. He would not make the same mistake twice. He was carried away with his emotions perhaps. He kissed his son instead. Caressed his skin. He had told himself in the beginning, he would pour all the love he had not given to Sara, with his own, into his son. He would stand by Shouda. He would love Shouda and care for him, support and comfort him. He would be all the things he could never be for Sara.

She had been quiet for a few seconds longer than normal. 

"You have every right to be angry with me, at me. I am thankful that you let me be a part of Shouda's life."

"I was very resentful, angry and hurt. But these negative emotions accomplish nothing. They erode the soul and rust the heart. They make us bitter and unreasonable. I do not like feeling that way." She sighed, "the fact of the matter is that you are married to a very kind intelligent woman. I am moving on with that part of my life. What you and I had, Yuki, is over. We have to concentrate on Shouda, give him the best we possibly can. I am committed to this."

Yuki's brow pinched faintly in response to her words. They hurt, but held truth. Especially now they hurt that he... He clinched his jaw. 

"I am too." He glanced up at the clock and frowned. Kaoru was not home yet. It was late. "It is too late for you to return home. You should stay." He watched Sara's eyes round. "In Shouda's room. He can sleep with me. I often does when he stays." He roused himself carefully and placed his empty bowl on the tray before pulling Shouda into his arms.

He stopped in front of a door, "This is Shouda's room." He watched Sara slowly rise off the couch, glance at the clock and walk to Shouda's room. He place Shouda softly on his bed and pulled a large T-shirt from a drawer before leaving the room. At Shouda's bedroom door he observed Sara looking at a photo of she and Shouda before clearing his throat. "For you to sleep in. The bathroom is..."

"Across the hall." She finished for him and eased the shirt from his hand.

 

***

 

Kaoru tightened her grip on the edge of the mattress as Kamir pounded into her from behind in a short burst of divine agony. He lowered himself fully on her outstretched frame. Her legs lay between his, he rocked upward against her petite ass sweat leaking from the pours of his skin. His hands slithered slickly under her chest and cupped her breasts. Kaoru turned her head to the side and panted. He kissed her shoulder, her neck and her face, licking the sweat from her cheek.

He continued his ministrations, rocking his weight against his elbows and knees and he stuffed his cock into her wetness slow and easy. He pivoted his hips from side to side.

"You like this?" He whispered before latching onto her earlobe.

"Yes"

"Yeah?" His tongue flicked over the lip of her inner ear. He breathed heavily into it and she squirmed.

"Yes"

Reaching between them, he pulled both her legs up to the side. His cock stayed firmly implanted inside her. She turned on her side and he eased up and sat back on his heels. He push one leg up bent at the knee and the other he lifted and tucked under his arm.

Sliding himself further inside her he grunted before driving into her fiercely. Her porcelain skin glistened in the moonlight. Her body gave to him. God he was up for it tonight! He bent over forcing the leg under his arm wider. If she were in pain, she said nothing. She cried in pleasure amid the sticky slapping of their two bodies colliding. He bent closer and she turned her head toward him, grabbed him by the nape and pulled his lips down to hers.

 

Kamir lay on his back, chest heaving with his hands above his head. He felt Kaoru lift and turned his head.

"It is too late to go back home. You do not mind if I stay?" She held the sheets covering her breasts.

"I do not mind at all." He watched her turn back over, her back to him. After closing and opening his eyes, he ran a shaky hand down his face and wondered what the hell he was doing.

 

***

 

Yuki turned his head and peeked at his digital clock again. He had not heard Kaoru come home. He decided to check and eased out of bed with one eye making sure Shouda was undisturbed. He opened his door quietly and after shutting it, approached Kaoru's. He knocked lightly, then stepped back. There was no light. He tried the knob and it opened. The bit of light from down the hall sent a lone ray across the floor and up over the comforter of her bed. It was empty. He stared at if for a few seconds then shut the door. 

As he turned he noticed a light coming from Shouda's room. His feet stood heavily planted to the floor. He looked back at his bedroom door with the full intension of crawling back under the sheets but his legs propelled him forward. He studied the light as it licked the front of his toes and his chest rose and fell abnormally. He lifted his hand and knocked lightly on the door. There was no answer.

His hand clenched into a fist and his heart rate sped up. Slowly he reached for the knob. He gripped it palm sweaty and slowly turned until the latch gave. He stood poised for a few seconds. His mind careening through the possible scenarios that could take place once he opened this door. His mind kept saying he did not want to hurt Sara, but his heart wanted to rip her to shreds as long as she opened up to him. He placed his free hand on the door frame and bowed his head, partially in shame for his desires and partially for strength to combat them.

He leaned on the door swinging it open and lifted his head. 

Sara lay on Shouda's bed on her side. Her hair fanned out over the pillow. One hand tucked under it, the other into her chest. Her legs where drawn up like a fetus. She was sleep. He watcher he body rise and fall rhythmically and he eyes darted across the hem of his shirt as it lay on her thighs. Her underwear exposed. She was totally and completely innocent.

Yuki's heart calmed, his mind quieted and before turning out the light, he smiled then shut the door.

 

End Notes:

I can not WAIT to hear what you think of this! Let it rip!

Jyuu san (13) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Please put down the bricks and rotton tomatos. Sorry it has taken me so long to get this up. I thank you all for your reviews. I will try and answer those soon. Also, I don't think there are any new Japanese terms that are not explained in the reading.

I'm sure this is riddled with errors in my haste to get it out to you ladies so please overlook them.

:)

 

Kaoru thought she might feel intense guilt or shame this morning, but she did not. Not intense anyway. She felt rather calm and aware of her feelings and mind. She tucked her wet hair behind her ear as she pushed her foot into her shoes. She felt Kamir staring at her as he leaned against the table in his room. Neither of them said much this morning. They went about washing and cleaning as if they had been living together for years. There was no awkward silence or nervous tango as they entered and exited the bathroom.

She stood up. "Thank you for your hospitality Kamir." Finally, she looked him in the eyes. He pushed off the table and smiled.

"You are welcome." Again unaffected as if he had not just screwed the life out of her last night while aiming for Sara. She did not harbor resentment though. Perhaps she had done so for so long regarding Yuki and her condition that the feeling had been rendered impotent. She walked toward the door and he followed. She turned around.

"I will not tell Sarua about this. You may do as you wish." She watched his eyebrows raise in surprise. "Did you think I would cling to you because we had sex?"

"It did cross my mind."

"You may call me when you have time. I left my new business card on your bed table. If you want to." Again Kamir looked surprised. Kaoru simple laughed and let herself out. He had no idea why she did what she did. He had no idea the affect, the way it put wheels in motion.

There was one thing she knew however, believed with all her heart. He was not for a kind soul like Sara. She said she would not tell and she would not. She hoped Sara would not get too attached to him.

The sky seemed brighter than she had ever seen it before, a clear day over Ōsaka. She wondered what Yuki would say to her not coming home. 

 

Kamir stared at his hotel room in a bit of a daze. If anyone had told him that the demure woman he met at the Umezawa's and subsequently at Sara's clinic would end up the dream one night stand, he would not have believed it. She flirted, fucked and fled. Well, not really fled but left amicably without strings and with an open to continue anytime he wanted. Very unexpected. Its always the quiet ones. He rubbed the back of his head. That was the night he wanted to have with Sara, but with more cuddling and a warmer goodbye.

Kaoru, though, was not bad. Not bad at all. He turned and walked to his closet to pick out his suite for the day. He briefly wondered if he should call Sara for lunch but then had the decency to feel humbly guilty and thought better of it. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. 

 

***

 

Sara awoke much to her immediate surprise in a different habitat. The events of the night before quickly flooded her conscious state and she smiled. Somehow she felt free. She stretched slowly and gazed without attention around Shouda's room. Bumping and giggles from the other side of her door slowly pulled her to an upright position and she threw the covers off and slipped on her pants from the day before. Checking her hair in Shouda's short mirror, she decided it was a hopeless mess and gave it very little attention before opening the door.

Turning into the kitchen, she found Shouda in half his school uniform putting breakfast on the table. He look up just as she peeked around the wall.

"Look mom, tamagoyaki! Dad made it." He held up the plate of rolled omelets for her to see. Yuki turned around in surprise at the mention of her presence.

"Wow. It looks very tasty. Good morning Shouda."

"Good morning mother."

She looked at Yuki finally, "Good morning."

He nodded, "Good morning."

"Come and eat mom." Shouda patted the seat next to him.

"Oh, let me go and freshen up." How she wasn't exactly sure. This was an impromptu sleepover and she had nothing with her.

"There is a basket for you in the bathroom." Yuki kept his eyes on his task. Sara silently left and found a basket with a sealed toothbrush and paste, face wash, toner and cream - the brand she used we they were together and still did, a brush, hair clips, floss, cotton scrubs, a face towel, hand towel and the honey based lipgloss she preferred.

It was all she could do to keep from laughing. Did he remember all this or did Shouda tell him? Even though she told herself it didn't really matter, in the depths of her heart it did. She ignored it and cleaned up.

During breakfast Shouda reviewed facts from his Japanese History class, he had a test. Yuki gave adequate praise and a few techniques on how to remember a few names. Sara felt no need to interrupt, to the contrary, she was happy someone else was burdened with the task. Without thinking she began clearing the table and washing the dishes. She felt happy. The sounds of Shouda and Yuki's voice behind her was very relaxing.

"Good morning Kaoru." Shouda's voice belied that it was perfectly normal for his father's wife to come home to find his ex-lover washing breakfast dishes. Sara calmly rinsed the plate and sat it in the drying rack before wiping her hands on a towel. She turned around to a rosy Kaoru and quirked a brow.

"Good morning Shouda, Yuki. Ah, Sara." She came to her and grabbed her hands. "Did you spend the night too?"

"Yes, in Shouda's room."

"I had no idea you were going to come over last night."

"Me neither really."

Kaoru leaned in and whispered, "Please do not worry." She smiled and stepped away. "I'm sorry I have a meeting this morning. I must prepare. You will excuse me?"

"Of course." Sara was still contemplating what she meant by ‘not worrying.' As Kaoru disappeared into her room Sara looked at Yuki who was looking at the retreating form of his wife. "Shouda, please finish getting ready. We have to leave soon."

"Okay." He replied as he jumped out of his chair and trudged to his room.

"I will take him to school. Surely you must go home to prepare for work."

"It will not make me late. Thank you for your hospitality Yuki. I enjoyed the evening, I slept well and I feel refreshed this morning." She smiled and tugged on the bottom of his T-shirt. "Oh, I need to give this back."

"I am in no hurry for it." They stared at each other until Shouda came hurrying into the room.

"Ready!"

"Oh, okay. I will get my purse."

 

Yuki closed the door behind them and waited in the kitchen. Kaoru came bustling out a few minutes later.

"Have they left already?"

"Yes, would you like some breakfast. There is miso left and I can make and omelette very quickly."

"No thank you Yuki, I..." Kaoru gazed at him a moment and he wondered what she was thinking.

"Kaoru?"

"Yuki, are you not going to ask me where I was last night?" She looked down.

"I was hoping to ask over breakfast."

"Always so calm, so reserved." She smiled. "You are a good man Yuki." He felt embarrassed. "You are still in love with Sara, are you not?"

His head shot up.

"Kaoru..."

"I slept with an acquaintance last night." He notice she kept a steady gaze. He was feeling anything but steady.

"Kaoru? What? You, you slept with another man?"

"I did."

"W... Perhaps that would be a stupid question."

She rested her elbows on the table and cradled her chin on the back of her linked fingers. "It is not your fault. It is not his either. I need, no, I desire more than anything else a change Yuki. Do you understand?"

"I am not sure."

"I think you are. Yuki," she slipped out of her chair and walked up to him, "I have come to have an affection for you I never thought possible. But, that affection is not the kind of love that should be felt between a man and woman." Yuki looked into her eyes. "It is more that of a brother or very close friend."

Yuki sighed. What more could he do? If he were honest with himself he had no desire to remained married to Kaoru. It was not that he had no love or affection for her, it was more that he want for something with someone else was greater. No, maybe that was not the way to say it. His love for Kaoru was never like the love he had for Sara. Never in all these years. 

"Let us be honest Yuki. Our opportunity has passed. That is, if we ever had one to begin with."

"Yes, let us be honest. Kaoru, the fact that you slept with another man does not fill me with either rage or jealousy. I am shocked but not angry. I feel that I have failed you in so many ways but I am relieved that you found some happiness. Does that sound horrible?"

"No, it sounds honest. We have been working quite a bit on honesty and are reaping the rewards." She laughed, Yuki did not. "I wish to have a divorce. It is my intension to start the procedure. I want to be free and I want you to be also."

"If that is what you wish." He took her head in his hands and kissed her forehead.

"Please do not say anything about it for now." She said from below his chin. 

Yuki only nodded in response.

 

πππππππππππππππ

 

Sara paused as she meticulously wrapped the embroidered silk fabric around a picture frame mold and secured it with cement and small staples on the back side. Her mind wondered from the lotus patterned fabric that would adorn the brides dress to the fact that Kamir had been sporadic in calling her over the past few days.

It was strange, but not unwelcome. She was eager to make progress on her massive order. She was not excessively ambitious nor did she care for notoriety; the challenge was what she enjoyed the most. Surpassing her own expectations as well as others. Delivering a superior product and seeing the look of complete satisfaction on the face of her clients, that is what she lived for.

Returning to Kamir, however, he lacked some of the usual push and when they did see each other for lunch, he seemed distracted or at the very least, not like his normal self. She wondered if work had become more demanding or if he was homesick. He had yet to renew his invitation to spend an evening together. She did not seem to be too bothered by it either. She let the staple gun rest on the clinic table, maybe she should take more initiative.

Before her lay a stack of covered frame molds that would eventually be placed as gifts from the bride and groom in each place setting at the reception. She had yet to make the vibrant stamped cutouts that she would adhere to the material before sending them to be encased in glass. They were to include the family name of the couple in Kenji and a very becoming picture of the two together.

Deciding to reconfirm shipment of card stock paper, she shifted to the phone and dialed the company's number. After a brief conversation she was switched to her managing agent who put her on hold a moment. The moment lasted an unusually long period of time and Sara found herself drumming the pads of her fingers against the lab table surface. A few minutes more and she began to exhibit signs of nervousness. Finally, the line was picked up, but not by her agent.

"Hello Richards-san," the crisp voice of a younger gentleman greeted her. 

"Yes."

"We are very glad that you have called. You order regularly from us. Thank you. By us I am now referring to Motoyama Industries. I am happy to inform you that your previous paper company has been picked up by Motoyama and we will be happy to continue to fulfill any of your paper needs."

"Oh, I had no idea." Sara frowned into the phone.

"Yes, the take over is finally in its last stages."

"I see, and my order?"

"Yes, as to your order. There are many details to attend to in a situation such as this. I am sure you understand. Sometimes there are small details that are moved around to make way for weightier matters. I am happy to offer you a premium selection of D card stock in place of A at the negotiated price. A card stock has been reevaluated and the price upgraded."

"I do not care for D card stock." Sara felt sure his words could not mean what she thought they meant, but the little voice in the back of her mind knew better. "What is more I succeeded in placing my order for A before any mention of cost adjustments. The order is to arrive this afternoon. I would like to confirm that is on a truck and will be in route shortly."

"Perhaps you are unaware of the legal procedures involving a take over such as this. All negotiations underway during the take over are subject to the policies and procedures of the acquiring company. Your order was placed within the last month. The take over commenced a month and a half ago. Therefore, we are more than welcome to send a shipment of D card stock immediately to your shop."

She was being swept to the side as if her business meant nothing. She had a very pleasant working relationship with the swallowed company. Now she was being forced into a new situation. She felt the need to exert herself. "This is unacceptable. I cannot possibly present my work on D."

"Then allow me to present to you the new cost of your order."

As she listened in disbelief to this impudent young man click away at his computer or whatever, her heart pounded loudly in her ears. When he quoted his price, she launched off her stool, it was almost double.

"You cannot be serious. That cost is astronomical."

"To be honest Richards-san, we are inundated with orders from larger companies such as S__, and W__. If you want A by this afternoon, we would have to open another press and engage employees at a higher cost. If you can wait another three and a half weeks, it is possible that we may be able to fill your oder at a reduced rate."

How is it possible that it could be her fault that they took over a company without first counting the cost of the needs of its clients? And why should she have to make allowances for their chinks when she was not benefited in any way by the take over? What is more, she would be forced into paying higher prices for the goods she preferred to use? "Is there a supervisor I may speak with?"

 

***

 

Kaoru watched Sara repeatedly pace the length of her clinic floor. She had stopped by to maintain the books and make records for the account she had created for Paper Butterfly Wings. Sara had attempted to explain the situation to her, but seemed too angry to continue. She had stepped out to make a quick call and upon returning saw that Kamir had shown up for lunch and looked enthralled as he watched Sara pace gushing out parts of the events at intervals of faux calm.

"I spoke to the supervisor and another and they all said the same thing: buy D stock or pay double and maybe get the A stock in a little less than a month."

"It is true what they said about take over procedures, though I am pretty sure that is an extreme case interpretation and rarely happens."

"I cannot believe it. I asked to speak to my old agent and was told he would no longer represent me." Sara concentrated on nothing in particular with her eyes as if she were locked in her own brain rapidly trying to come up with her next move.

"Is the hike in price that bad? Wouldn't it be simpler to pay it?"

"What?" her eyes locked on Kamir. "No, I am not going to pay twice as much for the stock."

"Well," he shifted on his feet, "where you able to find another manufacturer?"

Sara shook her head, "Not for the amount I need and the fact that I need it by tomorrow at the latest."

"How much time before you need to have the order ready?"

"Two and a half months." She looked at him inquisitively.

"There you have time. Take their offer." He dismissively leaned against her desk.

"No, it is not enough time. I have a schedule I have to keep with this commission and the additional ones that come in regularly. I will not be able to do it all in a month and a half." She glared at Kamir as if he were insane.

"Look," he reached out to her, "I know it does not sit well with you, but there are times when its better to accept a situation. You will only waste time and energy if you fight. These Japanese conglomerates are hard to get around Sara."

"It is the principle of the matter Kamir. If I let them railroad me now, it will start an unending chain of being cast aside and taken advantage of."

"Sara..."

"It is true Kamir. You think I am ignorant of Japanese business practices? You think I do not know what is going on? It is my rivals for this contract. He specifically mention their names in his condescending interchange. They are trying to push me out by causing my failure."

"You will not fail Sara, you will still provide the product." He crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"Failure either in not being able to fulfill my promise or not being able to offer a superior product is still failure. I'm not handing over a half ass job Kamir." The last sentence she said in English.

"I think she may be right Kamir." Kaoru found herself baffled by his advice as well. "They know that with this presentation of her work, she will be a serious contender."

"With this?" Kamir spread his arms to encompass her semi-humble clinic. "How is that possible?"

Kaoru smiled and shook her head "For all your knowledge of Japanese business, it is obvious that you still do not understand Japanese business."

Kamir blinked a few times.

 

Sara found herself offended by his attitude. It reeked of passive acceptance and general disinterest. It was not that she felt he was uninterested, more like he did not try to understand. His quick assessment and solution lacked honor and preservation of her dignity as a professional merchant. Worse, it showed a total disregard for her feelings on the matter. 

He had no idea the hard work she had put into her shop all these years. The sacrifices and hardships. He had no idea that with this one seemingly insignificant spot. Her whole career could be sullied. Perhaps not to her ruin, but sufficiently to her pride and own work ethic. She believed her base of existing clients as well as those potential ones would feel the same. 

Kamir did not seem to care.

A heavy silence filled the room as Sara started to spiral. What could she do? Personally visit the company? Call again? Maybe she could finish the work in a month and a half. She could ask her assistant to work overtime. She liked the card stock of two other companies. If she could wait a month for Motoyama, she could wait for one of them and pay less. She would probably have to work the nights through. Shouda could stay with his father.

The phone rang interrupting her thoughts.

"Sarua, are you about to leave for lunch?" Yuki's calm voice soothed her aching head and she slumped down onto her stool.

"Yuki."

"Sarua, what is the matter?"

"I do not know what to do. I cannot think." She rested her weight on her elbows and cradled her forehead in her free hand.

 

The change from strength and defiance to insecurity was not lost on Kaoru. Her friend was in a serious dilemma and Kamir was not very helpful. The last thing Sara needed was his laissez-faire way of handling business. Sara was a woman of action not compliance. The minute she heard Yuki on the other end she all but collapsed. Perhaps it had been a good idea to give him a quick call a few minutes earlier.

She decided to leave them alone.

"Kamir, I am sure Yuki will know what is best to be done. They will likely talk for a while so, should we leave?"

Kamir was obviously torn as to what to do. He, no doubt, recognized that his suggestions did not suit Sara, though she was convinced he had not a clue why, and that his presence was now all but forgotten. 

Kaoru wondered what he was thinking. He manner was always so unaffected about things. She would guess that he was not happy. He had not contacted her since they parted in his hotel room. Not that she had expected him too, but she also sensed that there was a change in the way he and Sara interacted. 

Had he told her?

She had not acted in any way different towards her when Kaoru walked into the clinic. However, she did not think Sara was the type of woman to act in such a vulgar manner. Either way, staying was not going to do Sara or Kamir any good. Finally, he responded with a head nod before moving closer to Sara.

"I am going to leave with Kaoru." 

Sara looked up and back and forth between the two before an apologetic distressed looked donned her face and she nodded.

Kaoru waved and Kamir followed her out the clinic. Outside of the shop he finally spoke.

"That guy is always popping up when I do not want him to." He ran a hand through his hair.

"Yuki knows Sarua very well and can best help her in this situation I think."

"You think I do not know her?" Kamir stopped.

"Honestly? I know you do not know her well enough." She faced him squarely.

"When did you become so self-assured?" He looked at her in irritation.

Kaoru looked off to the left in thought. "I think it has been starting ever since I met Sarua, but the night we spent together had a big impact."

At the vocalization of their one-night-stand Kamir took her by the arm and hurried her away from the front of Paper Butterfly Wings. Kaoru only laughed.

"What are you afraid of?" She questioned as he hastily pulled her away.

"I'm not afraid on anything." 

She simply stared at his determined face and enjoyed the warmth of his hand on her arm.

 

Jyuu yon (14) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Hello! I know, these long dry spells. Well, thank you for sticking with me. 

Kawaii - cute or hot

Please escuse the errors. Tried to catch as many as I could.

 

Yuki sat up in is chair and cradled the phone closer to his ear. Sara was troubled. He dismissed his secretary with a brisk nod. Kaoru had called and quickly told him Sara might need his help, that if he had a moment he should call her. Though he had no doubt Kaoru knew what she was talking about, Sara sounded worse than he envisaged.

"I am afraid I will not be able to finish this project." She sounded diffident and drained.

"Sarua, why would you not be able to finish? What has happened? Maybe I can help you."

A heavy sigh commenced a very long explanation. In essence, he understood that Motoyama was trying to help her competitors make a mockery of her. It was all disguised amidst card stock and order prices, but that was the gist of it. The quick assessment could be ascribed to his thorough acumen in business; a credit to his abilities. His gradual escalation in anger, much less to his credit, owed to the fact that he took the events as a personal affront.

"Kamir says I should either pay them what they ask for and work hard to complete it in time or go with someone else and...work hard to complete it. I suppose he is right. What do you think I should do Yuki?" His heart pounded rapidly at the tone with which she said his name.

"I do not wish to disrespect Kamir's advice Sarua, however allow me to tell you what I think."

"Please Yuki."

"Yes, I think there is an agreement between W__ , S__ and Motoyama. It is not unusual for stronger companies to oppress fledglings. Kamir is right, you should find another paper company, but not until after they deliver the paper you have ordered at the agreed time."

"How am I going to make them do that? You think I should go to their office?"

"No, you will waste valuable time in going. Prepare your clinic for the shipment of paper. Begin work on another aspect of the project. I will see that your card stock is delivered." Yuki sent a message to his secretary to ready the car and tell their lawyer to drop whatever he was working on and meet him at the door. He also told her to bring him information on the relationship between Umezawa Group's and Motoyama Industries as well as any inside information they possessed about the company.

"They could not possibly deliver it today Yuki..."

"They will deliver the shipment."

"How will you accomplish this?"

"Do you trust me Sarua?"

"Yes, Yuki, I trust you."

"Then take courage and begin preparations. I will do everything I can to help you."

There was a pause.

"I will be ready." He her usual determined voice. She was calm. He smiled.

"Do not hesitate to call me at any time for anything."

"I will be fine. I will be ready."

"Excellent." Yuki hung up the phone as his secretary entered his office with a folder in hand. "Inform my father that I will be in his office in three minutes." 

"Yes, Manager."

Yuki took the folder as he left his office. 

 

Umezawa Kenji sat in his rather large office with his hands laced and resting against his lips. His son's secretary had called to inform him Yuki would be to see him in three minutes. Number one, usually Yuki asked permission first. Not in a cowering way, but to make sure he was not occupied. Apparently this time it did not matter. He wondered what could be the problem. Furthermore, Yuki himself would call and fill him in on the issue. Again, a mystery. Even so, Kenji liked this side of his son.

Yuki strode confidently through the door and Kenji looked at his watch, three minutes had passed.

"President."

Kenji sat back in his chair, "Manager."

It was business, was it? Yuki stood with resolve and if Kenji was not mistaken, rather pissed off.

"I will only take up a few minutes of your time." Yuki began without sitting. "When I leave this office, I am taking our lawyer to Motoyama. I fully intend on pressuring them, using any means necessary, to fulfill an agreement they have made. I only want to inform you so that you will not be surprised if there is any retaliation."

Kenji lifted his brows in surprise. He knew his son to be capable, but to be so open about such sordid intentions. Usually, Yuki tried to negotiate. What was this about?

"Manager, I take it they have reneged on an agreement with us."

"No, an agreement with Sarua."

"Sarua?" Kenji narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, it will greatly affect an important project she is working on."

"The marriage?"

"Yes."

"I see. I wish to accompany you."

"It is not necessary to accompany me." 

"Of course not, I am only interested in getting a look at how Motoyama has come along. Afterwards, you will buy me a coffee at my favorite cafe." Kenji responded as if it were obvious. Yuki only turned to leave.

 

In the car, Yuki and the Lawyer huddled over the open folder while Kenji watched the pedestrians walk on the sidewalk. Some chatted on their phones, some rapidly hammered out text messages, everyone walking with a purpose somewhere. Motoyama was it? It would be interesting to see first hand how he had fared. He was always doing stupid things like this, which is why Umezawa had done better. That is to say, while neither of their business practices could be described as pristine, it is all in who one lies in bed with. Some chose their companions carefully, while others hop into bed indiscriminately with any filthy prostitute.

No sooner had they entered the Motoyama building than whispering began. It moved faster than they could through the halls and by the time they made it to reception, Kenji was sure Motoyama already knew they were there. They were of course quickly packed into an elevator and deposited on the executive floor. Motoyama's personal secretary greeted them and ushered them to his office. It was that of the eldest son. 

"Umezawa Kenji-san, Umezawa Yukimoto-san. I am pleased to welcome you to Motoyama Industries." Bowing ensued before they were guided to seats.

"I understand that you have been expanding lately." Yuki began adjusting his attire and striking a comfortable pose.

"That is true. We have completed a pharmaceutical take over and directed more advertising towards our new medical devises. Both have been advantageous." Motoyama smile proudly.

"There was more I thought." Yuki feigned contemplation.

"Ah, there was a small yet prosperous paper company. We forced them to sell. It was really nothing. Hardly even worth mentioning." He waived it away.

"I wonder that you devoted the time and man power to it at all."

"It is important to keep our partners happy. Sometimes these things are necessary. I am sure you understand." Yuki was rewarded with a conspiring look.

"Young Motoyama, Umezawa Group has never a day in its entire existence wasted man power." Kenji huffed.

"Still, you must own that partnerships are important."

"I believe we have partnered on a few important ventures." Yuki continued.

"Yes, and they have been very lucrative. Are you here to propose something of the kind?" Motoyama's eyes began to shine with the promise of yen.

"Rather to discuss this paper company you just took over."

Motoyama blinked, "Paper company? What about it interests you?"

"Its inability to fulfill contracts. It is a dishonor and embarrassment to merchants throughout Japan."

"Really? What has it done?" Motoyama sat forward in concern.

"Excuse me," Yuki touched his finger tips to his forehead and then lifted his head, "no, that would be Motoyama."

"I do not follow."

"You needlessly took over a reputable paper company under the urgings of your partners in time to impede their competitor at a crucial moment." Yuki wiped lent off his suit.

Motoyama sat back unconcerned, "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Of course you do, I can see it in the flat look of your eyes and hollow now sculpting your cheeks. Come now Motoyama, we are men of the same world. Ridiculous antics do not work on one of your own kind." The energy emitting from the two men clashed amidst the expanse above them in the room.

The doors to the office burst open igniting a spark that blazed across the room. A very round older gentleman walked stiffly into the room.

"Umezawa-san, when I heard you were here I made it my aim to come and meet you." He turned and nodded toward Yuki who had risen in his presence.

"Motoyama the elder! It is good to see you again." There were bows and gradually Motoyama seemed to finally pick up on the atmosphere.

"We are discussing something important?" He turned toward his son but Kenji clasped his shoulder.

"Oh, the young people are showing their business prowess, strutting like male cranes around a lone female. Let us leave them to it. I am interested in seeing your improvements." With that, he guided a confused Motoyama to the office doors.

"Yes, of course, come this way. I think you will be impressed Umezawa at what we have been accomplishing." The idea of boasting took over and he strutted from the room with a sly looking Kenji at his side.

"Shall we continue?" Yuki cooly took his seat again and peered at his companion.

 

***

 

Sara whistled as she prepared ink for the stamp machine and opened a new bottle of oil for the embosser. She had arranged the steps that would following stamping the paper across her clinic table including the relief cutouts for the lotus blossoms to be glued to each paper. She was ready for when the paper arrived. All of this had taken her a bit of time and she looked around at her work and then at her watch. Two and a half hours had passed. 

She would have to pick up Shouda before long. Her phone rang.

"Sara Richards speaking, how may I assist you?"

"Sarua, how is everything in the clinic?" Yuki's calm yet commanding voice made her smile.

"I am ready."

"Good. Oh, and I hope it is okay with you, I have arranged for a car to take your parents to pick up Shouda."

"I was just thinking about that." 

"Please do not worry. I will see to everything." Sara bit her bottom lip. "Do you have something you can work on until the paper arrives?" 

"Yes."

"I will contact you later, okay?"

"Okay Yuki."

Sara hung up the phone with a slight burning in her belly or maybe it was a little lower. She refused to think about it, yet could do nothing to hinder the toothy grin the spread from one ear to the other. Why was she getting so silly over this? While she was at it, why could she not feel this same silliness over Kamir? She pressed her hands to her glowering cheeks before taking a deep dismissive breath and getting to work.

 

How much time actually lapsed she did not know. She vaguely registered her assistant telling her she was leaving first before being swallowed by her task again. Now there was a ring from her phone.

"Richard-san, we are here with your paper order."

"Oh!"

She came running from the back to see two men loaded with boxes at the entrance. She unlocked the door and let them in.

"Thank you so much." She guided them to her clinic and instructed them where to place the boxes before escorting them out.

"Please accept our apology for delivering them so late."

"I knew you would come, it is fine. Thank you." She shut the door behind them and looked out at the closed shops before turning back to her clinic.

They were there. They were a few hours later than the agreed upon time, but they were there. She could finally get to work. According to her plan, she had to make a specific degree of advancement this evening to stay on schedule. Shouda was with his grandparents and the only thing that bothered her was the twinge of hunger reminding her she had forgotten to eat lunch. There was no time. 

Yuki had gotten her paper as promised and she needed to get started.

 

The stamp machine hummed out sheet after sheet of perfectly stamped paper. If one sat and watched, the transition from unadulterated to embellished could mesmerize one for hours on end. Sara, though, was contently bent over a group of cards that were stamped and printed. She was gluing the lotus to them, piece by piece. First the large green leaves then the soft pink blossom and lastly a few thin pedals to add to the 3D effect. 

Her stomach growled ferociously, this didn't phase her. Her cell rang, she jolted up as if she had forgotten where she was. As she reached for her cell, she surveyed her work with twisted lips.

"Mushi mushi."

"Sarua I am outside and have food. Will you let me in?"

"Yuki? O-of course." She quickly placed the card down and hurried to the front door. There Yuki stood on the dimly lit promenade on the covered mall with his cell crunched between his ear and shoulder. A gorged white bag dangled from each hand. He smiled when he saw her. "Yuki, here." She reached for his cell as she held the door open and closed it as he walked by. She locked it behind him and they headed to her clinic.

"I thought you may be hungry. Did you eat already?" She swore Shouda wore that same quasi-wide eyed expression when thought he may have made a mistake.

"No, not since breakfast."

"Ah, good. I mean, you should have eaten lunch, but I have brought dinner. Steaming hot ramen and meat buns and side of seaweed salad with bean sprouts." He placed everything on the accounting desk and began pulling food out of the bags.

"I think I could eat it all. It smells so delicious!"

Yuki handed her the big bowl of ramen and chopsticks.

"Itadakimasu!" They said together before Sara began to devour her ramen.

"I should have had someone bring you lunch."

"It is okay," Sara said with a cheek full of ramen, "I was working and did not even notice."

 

Yuki looked around at the material around the clinic. She had indeed been working. The hum of the stamp machine stopped and the room became quiet.

"Do you have much work to do this evening?"

"I will probably be here a while yet. There is only one of me." Yuki watched Sara smile then spoon miso into her mouth.

"Can I help you?"

"This is so good."

They spoke simultaneously.

"What?" Sara looked at him wide eyed.

"I am glad you like it." Yuki looked into those surprised pools with satisfaction.

"You want to help me?"

"Yes, I will stay until you are satisfied and then I will drive you home."

"But..."

"I will make arrangements for Shouda and I will call Kaoru. What I will not do is leave you here by yourself." Her eyes dropped and she thought for a few seconds before raising them again.

"I know exactly where I will put you." She took a big bite out of her meat bun.

As they ate and talked and even when they started working, Yuki stole quick glances so as not to stare at Sara. He wondered what she would think about the method he used to get her order delivered. Motoyama had not been happy or easily pressured. In the end he had to threaten cutting ties with them. It would have been hard on the Umezawa Group, but Motoyama would have fared much worse.

It would have lead to an unprecedented upheaval in the tri-cities business world and maybe reverberated throughout Japan, but he would do anything for Sara and her heart. Yes, this business was her heart. It represented years of work and sacrifice. It embodied her perseverance and pride. It was the manifestation of her dream. He would not let anyone take that from her.

He loved her. Loved everything about her. She was the only woman he had ever loved in his life quite possibly. Despite everything, she had not changed, not in essentials. She was still ready to smile and laugh. She still asked his advice and listened. She still challenged his way of thinking. Sara had changed his life back then and although he had lost his way and hurt her in the process, she had helped him find it again.

She was with this Kamir fellow and he was in the midst of his divorce with Kaoru. Would they ever get the timing right? Would he ever get another chance? He shook his head. Had she not said it was over? It pained his heart to think that all those feelings where gone. That he could not get them back. That she felt nothing for him when he was full of feelings and thoughts of her. He stole another quick glance.

 

For her part, Sara enjoyed his company. He worked diligently at his ‘station' over the embosser. They talked about Shouda and her parents. 

"I was amazed by their strength." Yuki shook his head in wonder. "I do not think I could be so calm meeting...well, me."

Sara laughed. "Yuki, you would have been calm. At least on the surface and with your words. I always admired that about you."

"If I remember correctly, in the beginning you found it condecending." Yuki checked the embossed papers for niches then picked up another stack to be placed in the machine. He quickly aligned the pile and dropped it perfectly centered in the feeder. 

"You are very good at that Yuki." He smiled but did not look up.

They hypothesized about how his and her parents were getting along. 

"I know my mother is at her limit." Sara chewed on her lip.

"I too believe they do not get along so well. My mother can act more like a feral cat than a woman of distinction at times." Yuki sighed to himself.

"Well, I do think the men get along. I think your father is very sly. I like him for it. Though I do not always know how to take him." 

"He likes you. I have many times heard him speak highly of you."

Sara laughed, "Really? I am flattered."

"Yes," Yuki laughed with her, "I would say so. However, it is not as if you do not deserve it Sarua. You are an exceptional woman...I think and always have."

There was a respectful silence in which both Yuki and Sara felt equally embarrassed. Him for actually expressing such intimate emotions and she for being the recipient. 

He told her about how he went to Motoyama with his dad and that he was happy for his father's company. 

"My father and I are not especially close. We never have been. When I was little, he spent much of his time working. When I became an adolescent he spent much of my time having me trained to take over the business. When I became an adult we were already respectful strangers." Sara was at a brief loss as to what she should say. He seemed very sad after admitting thus. She felt for him.

"I know very little of the dynamics between men. I have only the example of my brother and father. At times they had their difficulties." She thought a moment. "For example, I cannot say that it was my father's first, preferred or even appealing choice for Ward to go into modeling. At first father figured it a phase then he became irritated when he saw that Ward was serious about it. He tried to dissuade him, there were arguments. In the end, Ward came to understand Darren and Darren came to understand Ward."

"They get along well now though?"

"They have their moments. Its like that with fathers and sons I guess. That element that testosterone brings and sluggish thyroid gland." She laughed and moved closer.

"Sarua, you just made that last part up I think." He chuckled leaning against his table.

"Never mind that. My point is that no matter how estranged you are or how out of sync you may feel, your father loves you very much."

"He was very helpful today. His presence was fortifying. Afterwards he had me take him for coffee."

"Just you and him?"

"Yes, I cannot remember the last time we did something like that." Yuki's brow furrowed.

"He just wanted to be with you." Sara smile triumphantly.

"Perhaps."

"And why would he not wish to be with his ‘fine' capable son."

"You are making fun of me."

"I am not."

"When you say, ‘fine' this is your American word for handsome?"

"No, ‘hot.'"

"As opposed to cold?"

"Now you are making fun of me."

"English has such strange meanings for common words."

"I suppose ‘kawaii' is not strange?"

Yuki struck a pose, "Kawaii is very appropriate. It means....‘hot.'"

They both laughed.

"Seriously Yuki, you proved your capability beyond a doubt today and I am very grateful to you." Sara bowed very low. Yuki pushed off the table startled.

"Sarua, please." He gently pulled her up.

"Let me show my gratitude to you."

"I do not want gratitude from you Sarua."

Her eyebrows lifted slightly in the middle in question. "What do you want from me Yuki?"

"Happy Sarua. I want you to be happy."

An intense moment passed between them. One neither one seemed quite sure what to do in. Sara's heart was flapping in her mouth threatening to come bursting out and the blood coursing through Yuki's veins burned like lava. Somewhere along the way Yuki managed a smile and let go of Sara's shoulders.

"Speaking of amusement, my father told me something very interesting today."

"Hmm?"

"It seems he stole my mother from no other than Motoyama."

"What?" Sara's eyes grew large.

Of course, he didn't tell her the rest of the story:

 

No matter what you may think of your mother at this time, she has been invaluable to me over the years. I recognized her worth early, but she was with another man. I had to woo her away from him. Not that it was that hard, he was not the brightest man, but his future looked very good. That man was Motoyama. This will be the second time a Umezawa has stolen a woman from Motoyama clutches. Umezawa men know women of value and when we decide they are ours, we stop at nothing until get them. You do want Sarua-san do you not Yukimoto?


 

End Notes:

Thanks for reading!

Jyuu go (15) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Okay, so here look! A quick update. I know, so sorry. Thank the rain. Its been doing it so long the roads are washed out and impassable. So I finally had more time to sit and write. 

Thank you for your reviews too!

Things to mention:

Daisho - a set of samurai swords consisting of a long bladed sword and a shorter bladed sword.

Katana - the long bladed samurai sword

Wakizashi - the short bladed samurai sword

Aregato gozaimasu - thank you very much

Okashi - funny, rediculous

The root questions of children - a Japanese proverb that means children always ask questions that get to the root of the matter (Kodomo no nedoi)

Think that's it.

Please excuse errors.

 

Shouda was very happy if not a bit confused, but the confusion was not so great as to dampen his happiness. When he propelled himself out of the Academy at great speed he expected to find his mother's slim figure waiting at the bottom of the stairs on the left with a big smile. He was the only one who had a parent come for him. All the other kids had a car waiting for them or had to take the bus or walk home. 

It hadn't occurred to him yet that he might be uncool for having his mom or dad come for him. On the contrary, he was sure that he was the luckiest of them all for having parents that cared enough to come personally to get him. He felt sorry for his schoolmates even if they were a tad officious sometimes. It couldn't be helped probably because, well, could you expect more from them if their parents never came to pick them up? Mom always said that children learned their behavior from their parents. That if someone treated him unkindly to try not to look at it as that person's fault but years of bad training. Maybe even all the way back to the grandparents. 

Shouda felt this to be a very long time and completely out of the control of the person being unkind. For his par, he was determined to be nice and as good as possible. He would never want anyone to think his mother wasn't good, his grandpa and grandma Richards either. If he added the Shinoharas the insult would double as their was no badness at all in them. He figured his dad, even though he made the grave mistake of leaving his mother, but good people make their share of mistakes his mom said, was not unkind. 

The Umezawas, his father's people were more complex. He was still getting to know them. He wasn't used to the way they lived and did things. The big quiet house even though there were so many people moving around in it, the servants asking after his needs and even bowing when he passed by at times, all the stuff here and there that just sat lonely cause it couldn't be touched. Everyone said they were important, but important things were meant to be shown affection. 

For example, mom. There were always hugs and kisses and caresses given to mom. She was very important and he knew he was important because she always gave them to him even when he was trying to play video games or concentrate on his homework. In those times he had to be patient, it was the obligation of being important. He didn't mind though because when he gave her hugs and things while she was working she always accepted these. That's what being important meant.

Well, but people were different from things and mom was different from people. So there is the example of Shinohara's daisho. They were family heirlooms. His ancestor was a great samurai warrior who had followed in his father's footsteps. When the samurai days of glory were done, the katana and wakizashi was retired and the family went into administrative politics. That's what Shinohara said. Still, he remembers his grandfather taking them out, polishing them, holding them in his hands with great respect. He said his father did the same and Shouda himself on several occasions witnessed Shinohara take both swords from their perch, unsheathe and clean them. He would hold them and move them through the air carefully. He even let Shouda hold the wakizashi as it was shorter and guided him in some movements. He said this made the swords happy. 

Even grandma Richards had some china in a cabinet that she took out and used or handled on occasion. She said it came from the house of a great lady. Our family had worked for her as slaves a long time ago. Grandma said the lady loved her slave much more than her own children, they were not kind, but it wasn't the lady's fault. She had tried, they were just sick inside. Even after the government said you couldn't have slaves anymore her servant stayed with her and years later, when the great lady was about to die, she arranged to have her servant take the china.

Grandma said it had to be a secret, but the china was very important to her and she trusted her servant would respect her wishes, so she did it. That servant was his great-great grandmother and she had accepted the china and always taken care of it. Grandma even let him touch and hold it. She said that the china he was holding was from England. It had been held by rich Irish and Scotts, governors in America and during the war entertained mice where the lady had hidden it so the Union solders couldn't find it and now it was in his hands.

It carried love and sorrow, happiness and pain. It had touched the lives of many people and to make it feel at ease, you had to take it out and caress it every now and then. Even though he wasn't sure what the story meant, and he was sure it had some meaning, important things were meant to be touched.

In the Umezawa house they were only looked at and dusted. They were definitely different.

All of that aside, Shouda came racing out the door and didn't see his mother standing to the left like he expected. Instead stood grandma Richards and grandma Umezawa in the middle of the of the walk at the bottom of the stairs and that great big Mercedes Benz pulled to the curb. Grandma R had a big smile. Grandma U was attempting the same but only succeeded in looking like she was trying not to pass gas. He laughed and ran down the steps.

"Here is my baby boy! You look so handsome in your uniform." He hugged the soft flesh or her middle and received kisses. Nothing felt like the soft middle of his grandma R.

"Hi grandma." Then he turned to grandma U. He regarded her uncertainly and she returned the look. Her face went through a few changes and then she patted him gently on the head and ruffled his hair.

"Hello Shouda. I trust school went well?" She said in Japanese.

"Yes, I got full marks on my arithmetic exam. I will show you." Shouda began to open his bag.

"That is not necessary. I believe you." She patted him on the head again. This was what he was talking about. Of course she should believe him, but he wanted to show her.

"What do you have there baby?" He turned excitedly to grandma R. "I want to see."

"Want?" Grandma U said in English, "I not mean I don't want." 

Shouda looked back and forth between the two woman curiously. Something was not right.

 

An hour previous

 

"I see, yes, it will be no problem at all. The driver will take us? Okay, thank you kindly Kenji." Darren gave the phone back to the waiting servant with a smile. "Aregatō gozaimasu." Then he turned to the two expectant ladies.

One, his wife, he knew could not imagine why he would be getting a call in Japan on the phone line of the Umezawas. The second, his hostess, he figured could not imagine why her husband would call and ask to speak to him instead of herself. So his wife wore an old school ‘what the hell?' look, while his hostess an imperial ‘why aren't you saying anything yet? look. 

"It seems Yuki is helping Sara with some urgent business and Kenji asked if you and I," he pointed to Percy and himself, "would go to meet Shouda when he comes out of school."

"Well, of course we will. I don't have any problem picking up my grandbaby."

"That's what I told him now Percy. No need to get excited." He put out his hand to calm her. He wasn't sure it worked but he always did it nonetheless.

"Why must you go? Why not I?" Both Darren and Percy turned to Mrs. Umezawa. This he had not counted on. He felt his wife get huffy and even though he could not see them, was sure her eyes were rolling all different kinds of ways in her head.

"I don't think he meant any harm Umezawa-san. Only that we might enjoy picking him up." His hand shifted directions.

"I tell you. You call him Kenji and me Umezawa-san. You think I don't know. Other thing is this, I will enjoy to pick up my grandson too."

"No one is saying that you wouldn't enjoy picking Shouda up...Izumi."

She looked displeased with his pronunciation but let it go. "If she will go, I will go. Men traditions are not those of women. The women will go."

"Our traditions are not like yours. Our men don't follow strict gender guidelines. Men like to pick up their grandsons from school." Percy pointed out. Darren's brow lifted.

"You mean American man better than Japanese. This is not so. Kenji like very much pick up Yukimoto but must work." Izumi stood defiantly against Percy. It was quite an amusing thing to see for Percy was a traditionally built African American woman. She was tall and thick where as Izumi was, well probably a traditionally built Japanese woman, short to average height and slim petite. At any rate, he was sure it didn't help that Percy had to look down at Izumi who had to look up.

"We agree with you there. One is not better than the other." Darren asserted.

"Sarua know this too, for she have no problem with my son. They go all over Japan together before. Always together. They have child. This is not child of American man and woman," she wagged her finger, "no, this is American from Africa and Japanese." She lifted her head and walked past an incensed Percy. "I will go too." With that she walked out of the room.

"Darren did you hear that woman? Why she have to emphasis that my baby is from Africa?" Percy turned on him arms flailing.

"Calm down Percy."

"I am calm. She walked out of here without my elbow in her mouth didn't see?"

"Percy, why do you let her get to you?" He had to hide the chuckle at the back of his throat.

"Because I don't like evil things." She slammed her hands on her generous hips.

"Sweetheart," Darren put both his hands on her shoulders. "You and I both know she is not evil. She's bitter to the palate yes, but she isn't evil." He switched gears as her eyes slip off to the left. "You know what I love about you?"

This caught her attention. "What?"

"I love that you have a good head on those shoulders. One of the best I have ever seen. You have wrestled with the best of them. I've seen it with my own eyes and every time you emerged victorious was proud."

"Darren, don't try to play me." She warned with a slight smile.

Darren looked aghast. "Who is trying to play you? I have always been able to hold my head up with pride and say, ‘that Percy Richards is my wife.' Anyone around would seal their lips out of respect." Percy wrestled to hold on to the remnant of aggrandized anger slowly slipping out of her chest. It was a loosing battle. "You have never shamed me Percy and you've never shamed the family."

"Say no more Darren Richards. I am a woman of boundless patience." She put a hand on either of his cheeks lovingly. "I would have to be to put up with this manipulative mumbo jumbo for over forty years." She patted one cheek and walked away. "However, the Lord knows you speak truth Darren. I am the best thing that ever happened to you." With that she switched out of the room. Darren guffawed and looked around himself.

"You are ready now?" Izumi asked from somewhere out in the hall. Darren waited.

"Yes, I'm ready Izumi. Let's go grandma." His wife responded sweetly.

 

Present

 

Shouda sat between his two grandmothers in the back seat of the large Mercedes. One held his left hand and the other his right. He tried his best not to look at either one of them as he wasn't quite sure what was happening. He didn't mind holding their hands. He and grandma R always did so. It was with grandma U that things felt awkward. Her hands were small like his mother's but more delicate. He glanced at the white skin cradling his darker hand. He never noticed this type of thing with his father.

His eyes trailed up her arm and he allowed himself a quick glance. She was looking out the window. He wondered many things about her, but didn't feel comfortable asking. He looked up at the rearview mirror and noticed the driver watching him. The driver smiled and Shouda warmly returned it. Then the driver was back watching the traffic. 

The silence made him restless.

"So mom and dad are working together?"

"That's right baby. Something came up." Percy squeezed his hand.

"Your father is helping Sarua with an important matter. That is what good men do." Izumi said in Japanese and then nodded to affirm this.

"Hmm?" Percy inquired.

"She said good men help others." Shouda turned to his grandma R.

"That's right and your father is a good man." She smiled.

"I think so too." Shouda agreed. "I'm happy he's with us now and that he likes me and that he helps mom."

"We are happy too Shouda." Izumi agreed in English.

Shouda began to feel better.

"I think they should be together. Have you noticed that they get along?" He waited for Izumi to respond.

"Yes, when it come to you most of all."

"That's natural, I am their son."

The grandmothers exchanged looks.

"I like Kamir, but I like when mom and dad and I are together more."

"Do you?" Percy said with some apprehension. 

"I like the way they look at each other and smile. Mom is happy and dad is always doing things to make her happy. It would be nice if we were a family." He frowned slightly.

"We are family. The Richards and the Umezawas are joined forever." Izumi turned to him reassuringly.

"I know, but how can I have a brother or sister if we are not a family?" Shouda turned his head between the two startled woman.

"What?"

"Deshou ka?"

"I suppose dad and Kaoru could have a child and that would be my brother or sister. It wouldn't be the same though." He didn't notice the startled grandmothers and plowed on. "I would be different and maybe they would like it better than me. Or maybe dad would begin to forget about mom."

"That would not happen." Percy recovered first.

"No, don't think this." Izumi said supportively.

Shouda thought a moment. "Maybe, but like at school. No one really says anything, but I know they feel I'm different. I don't mind it, but I don't think I would want to feel that way at home. Home is for love and comfort that's what mom says."

"Your mother is wise." Izumi said softly.

"If you aren't comfortable and don't feel loved in your own home. Where can you go?" He look up at his grandma U innocently.

"You are correct Shouda. One will try find comfort other place. This is not good." She patted his hand with her other. "It not matter if there come brother or sister young Shouda. We will love you always. You are a good boy." She looked up at Percy. "Your mother is a good woman."

"I know grandma." She looked down when Shouda called her grandma and they smiled at each other. Shouda felt this smile was much more natural. The Umezawas were different but then they weren't. It probably didn't matter how rich or poor you were and he knew it didn't matter if you lived in America or Japan, aside from how they saw and treated important things, people were the same. 

They thought the same thoughts, worried over the same worries, laughed at the same kind of jokes, smiled at the same moments in movies and made the same kind of mistakes the world over. That was what he thought anyway. Still, there was a little dark spot on his horizon.

"I guess there's no chance of mom and dad getting back together. That wouldn't be fare to Kaoru. I like her too, she's nice."

"Oh baby, don't lets look at the blue side of things. Its much better to look at the bright side. You know why?" Percy gave him a squeeze and peck on the head.

"Because the bright side is full of wonderful colorful things. Endless color and beauty and life." He smiled broadly.

"I guess you heard that one before." Percy frowned.

"Mom says it all the time. She usually does a goofy dance, but we can't in the car."

"Goofy? Goofy dance?" Izumi blinked.

"Yes, okashī, like with an imaginary hat and she moves her arms like this." He let go of there hands and started flapping his arms about.

"Oh!" Izumi started laughing and Percy joined in.

 

***

 

Yuki entered his parents house in the wee hours as quietly as he could. Still after closing the door he turned around to find the servant there waiting on any instructions. 

"Please, go back to sleep. I am sorry I woke you." He whispered. The servant bowed and shuffled off. Yuki removed his shoes and silently padded across the floor and through the halls. He had told Sara he would see to Shouda getting to school in the morning, but with it being so quiet, wondered if it would not be better to leave him sleep.

Finally turning into the room intended for his son he was surprised to find his mother sitting up by the window looking at her grandson. Her hair was loose and she wore a yukata over her night dress. Her gaze shifted and he lifted his hand. She beckoned and he came in and saddled up beside her, giving her cheek an unaccustomed peck. He was touched that she was with his son like this. Had she stayed up beside him this way unbeknownst to him?

"You have come to take Shouda away? Please let him stay." She whispered this then looked up at him. Maybe it was the magic of light and shadows or maybe because he had happened upon her when her guard was down, but she had never looked so feminine to him. He figured this to be what his father saw in her years ago, she was rather beautiful looking up at him with no makeup or jewelry on. He touched her shoulder.

"He has school tomorrow." He whispered back.

"I know, we will see to him, his grandparents and I." Her words and voice were warm. He was again impressed with her softness, perhaps enchanted was a better word. It struck him that she spoke of Sara's parents as equals and not as ‘those people' like before. He was inclined to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. This behavior was so unlike the mother he knew.

"As you say mother."

"Thank you." She turned her head back to look at Shouda. Upon closer inspection he could see that her hair was thick and waved slightly as it fell down around her shoulders. His eyes also picked up in the moonlight strands of grey.  "You know, he is not so unlike you. Although you were never as vocal." She chuckled. "He says all the things I used to see in your eyes. You were such an inquisitive and observant young boy. You were always thinking about things." There was a long period of silence. "Yukimoto?"

"Yes, mother."

"You do know that were loved? I loved you from the moment I saw your little scrunched up, gloriously beautiful face. I held you in my arms and said, ‘this boy will be great. He will do wonderful things.' In my mind I was thinking of school, work, the family and business. Your father was the same. He cried when you were born, like a baby. Your blanket was wet with his tears."

Yuki remained silent.

"You made us proud in school and in work, in the family and in business, but I think we were wrong in only thinking of these things. I was not wrong in what I thought, you have done wonderful things and you have become a great man. I think though that you have accomplished this in spite of us...me. It is unfair to speak for your father in this. Do you know how I can tell that you are great?"

"No."

"By this wonderful boy you have brought into this world Yukimoto. You and Sarua, for there is a great deal of her there as well, but I see you there so clearly. I only wish I had payed more attention to what I saw when you were a boy. That I had nourished you more. Ah, but I was blind."

"One can only do one's best with the knowledge one possesses mother. Our lives could have been different, but this is the life we have. I had the good fortune to be born into a good family, I was educated well, I was never in want of anything..."

"Except love. Your son said something very interesting today. He asked me, if one does not feel loved and comfortable in one's own home, where can one go? The root questions of children. You perhaps did not find these at home and so searched for them somewhere else. I think you found them in Sarua and we took that away from you." She took his hand then and caressed it within her own. "You will forgive your foolish mother?"

Yuki was at a huge loss. These confessions were too much for his mind to ingest and make sense of. What had happened today? Why was his mother in such a mood? She said thank you and please and asked for forgiveness. Again he wanted to pinch himself, but making a dramatic event out of it would do no good. Neither would holding some type of grudge. Even though it would take more than just words for him to completely accept it all, this was at least a start, an opportunity.

"Of course mother. We all have reason for forgiveness, I would not hold mine back from you." He bent down on his knees and sat with his mother holding his hand.

"You know, he called me grandmother today. It was a beautiful sound."

"You must have said something complementary of his mother. He always gives a reward to those who do." He smiled up at his mother's face.

Again there was silence.

They both watched Shouda sleep.

 

End Notes:

Hope you enjoyed it!

Jyuu roku (16) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

I noticed that this story is being spotlighted this month. I am very thankful for the request. Whomever you may be, thank you very much!

There are no terms that need to be explained. I probably should read through it again, but I wanted to get it up so please excuse my errors.

:)

 

It had to be the biggest bouquet of roses she had ever seen. Roses in every warm shade of red imaginable. They winked and danced at her encircled by a layer of watermarked wax paper and then crepe tissue paper. Above the outstretched bouquet was the adorably contrite face of Kamir Dubashi. He lifted his eyebrows and sucked on his bottom lip. Sara laughed and took them from him.

"You see, I felt bad because I wasn't very helpful to you yesterday and I wanted to apologize. I realize that this business is your life and who in their right mind would compromise on something that would affect their life so adversely? So I am deeply sorry. He took off his coat. I am fully prepared to help in anyway I can. I'll go and reason with the company, I'll find another one and drive the truck of paper here to you. I'll help you get the work done. Anything." His arms open encompassing anything.

Sara motioned for him to follow her out from the show room, from in front of her assistant and curious customers to her clinic. When she stepped in, she went for a vase and added some stones from an idea gone wrong that she kept behind other things, then filled it with water. Carefully opening the paper, she took out each flower and wedged the stalk in the stones. She picked up the vase and took it to a little table she kept by the mirror.

"Thank you Kamir, these are stunningly beautiful."

"I'm glad you like them. Please, tell me what I can do to help." His voice sounded sincere. She turned to him.

"Well, you see, yesterday the paper ended up being delivered." She pointed to the stacks of boxes behind him.

Kamir turned around noticing for the first time the organized mess of the clinic. "Wow, how did that happen?"

Sara took a deep breath. "Yuki went to Motoyama and somehow got them to make good on the order. They arrived yesterday evening. Then he came over and we worked together until midnight. I am on schedule." She watched Kamir look around and finger different piles. They stood in silence for a few seconds more. "Kamir, I very much appreciate your apology and offer to help. Thank you. There is still quite a bit of work to be done, so I might just take you up on it...if its still on the table."

He finally looked up at her. "Of course it is."

"You look so serious, this isn't like you Kamir." Sara felt bad for some reason.

"No, I don't suppose it is." He glanced at his offered roses.

"I feel like its my fault. I'm sorry Kamir. I guess I'm not as fast and fun as you originally thought I might be. I thought I might be as well, but I'm not. I feel like I'm dragging you down into territory you aren't familiar with. I have a son and a business. If you had caught me nine or ten years ago I was different. I went everywhere, did everything, I had few responsibilities and my life was less complicated."

"You're still full of plenty of life Sara."

She sighed.

"I admire many things about you Kamir. You're fun and spontaneous, open and honest, you like to laugh and you aren't afraid. I don't want to take that away from you. I don't want to frustrate you and that's what I feel like I'm doing." She looked down.

"Are you breaking up with me?" He teased.

"Where we dating?" She laughed. "That doesn't seem to be your style."

Kamir began to walk towards her. "Do you want to date?"

This caused her to head to jack up in surprise. "Kamir I..." He silenced her by arresting her lips with his own. His arm wound around her body and pulled her in close. His other hand cupped her face, held it in place so she could not move. It was nice and warm and...not what she wanted. She grabbed his upper arms to pull them down.

"Sarua, I brought lun...ch."

She and Kamir quickly separated and she looked at Yuki. 

"I am sorry to intrude. I can leave this here and come back some other time." Yuki made quick to place the bags on the accounting desk. This time they were of brown paper and she found her mouth watering at what might be inside.

"Yuki wait." It came out of her mouth before she even realized it was how she felt. 

"Yes, Yuki, you aren't interrupting anything." Kamir placed his hand on a hip.

"Kamir?" Sara glanced at him before walking to Yuki. "Yuki."

Yuki shook his head, "You do not need to explain anything to me Sarua. It was rude to come unannounced."

"It was not rude Yuki. I am thankful to you for bringing lunch." She touched his arm.

"I have told you, I do not seek your gratitude Sarua."

"Perhaps it is her that you want." Kamir challenged from behind her. Sara whirled around. What the hell was going on?

 

Yuki glared at Kamir. His jaw clinched and his hands grew restless. Kamir glared back into his eyes defiantly.

"Kamir, what are you saying? Yuki is a married man. He would not do anything to hurt his relationship with Kaoru. Neither would I." Yuki was aware Sara was there standing up for him, he lifted his chest and his brows lowered as he continued to stare at his adversary.

"Kaoru, she doesn't want to be with you and you know it. Thats why you are always popping up in the life of Sara." Yuki flinched at is words.

"Kamir."

"She says you are boring and that she wants to be free." He continued.

"Kamir."

"She prefers being with me. Did you know that? We go for drinks and she talks about you. Did you know?"

"Kamir!"

All of a sudden it dawned on him.

"It was you that she slept with, yes?" Yuki asked calmly. Sara whirled around to face him and then back to Kamir.

"What?"

For a moment Kamir was silent. His eye lowered slightly then he faced Yuki again.

"She did not tell me who he was, only that she did."

"Kaoru decided for herself." Kamir finally said.

Of all the people in Japan, why did it have to be him. Sara like him, they were just showing one another affection. Well, he didn't like it, but what will Sara think? How will she feel? How could he do this to her? Yuki's shoulders sagged. He was not qualified to judge Kamir. All of a sudden Sara started laughing.

Both men turned to her.

 

The more Sara's brain raced around in circles the more she started to laugh. The more she started to laugh the more uncontrollable it became. She looked at all her paper stacked here and there and pointed to it laughing. She looked up at Kamir, at the strange look on his face and adjusted her finger in his direction and bent over laughing. The accounting desk caught her attention and it was all she could do to catch a deep breath. She stumbled a bit and Yuki caught her in his arms and righted her. She looked at him and waved her hand back and forth in front of her face as if trying to break up an apparition.

She looked at her roses and leaned against her chair holding her aching stomach. The secretion from her eyes leaked down her cheeks and she belched out bits of laughter like an old truck in its last stages of death. She stared at the beautiful roses the color of blood and sin and anger, and leaned forward over her chair. Her left hand planted in the seat. Her hair framed the photo she now peered at of her hand in the cushion of her lab chair, fingers spread wide, slender, perfectly manicured. She tilted her head slightly. She had to keep them that way for her customers. The thought beat a lonely trail across the empty expanse of her lightless mind.

It was so dark, it was depressing. She saw it coming, flying straight at her like a June bug beetle, careening through space, target locked, right for her face. She closed her eyes against the impact, but let the idea float out of her mouth.

"I am a fool."

She stood and covered her face with her hands. She heard a man say her name, whether it was Kamir or Yuki she wasn't sure. She walked forward, bumped into her table and turned a little and walked forward again.

"Sara." It was Kamir's voice. She also felt his hand touch her arm and before she could stop herself, slapped it away. Her arm poised in the air, her other hand covering her mouth. Her eyes focused on nothing at all. Everything was quiet and still. She suddenly clasped her hands together and turned to her two ring masters with as much dignity as she could feeling more like one of those poor humiliated bears in a pink tutu.

"But you know what? Us fools have to make a living too. So, if you gentlemen do not mind, I have work to do." She walked over and after grabbing Kamir's coat, threw it in his chest then ushered him and Yuki out of her clinic. At the sliding panel she shooed them further. "If anymore relatively wealthy, lively men with a good sense of humor - since that seems to be my MO - come looking for a fool, just have them fill out an application and I'll get back to them as quick as I can."

Sara watched her assistant's eyes widen then left the showroom.

 

She completely immersed herself in work. Her stomach growled every time her nose smelled the food Yuki brought, but she had no desire to eat. All she wanted to do was work. Work, work, work, escape. She mentally slapped the thought our of her head. She wanted to finish up the baby album as soon as possible. She added the folder inserts and checked the small white pompoms she attached to the front. Once it was filled it would be very cute, but they would have to watch the pompoms. She would be sure to tell them. 

Next she met with one of her new paper supplier. She called the two other companies she liked and arranged for meetings. They had both happily brought their samples and she had decided she liked them both, but for different items. They talked about regular orders of this and that and signed a contract for a year. 

She had a meeting with some new clients, which always took time. A couple decided to keep looking while another, a mother, decided Sara should make the catalog for her daughter. She would have to make it durable and unique as this was a means used to ‘sell' her daughter to potential husbands. The catalogs were passed out to eligible families with a nice photo and biography inside. Another woman ordered two sets of customized stationary for her twin nieces and a German couple wanted announcements and invitations made for their wedding.

Salesmen from an ink company came around and made a pitch for their inks and dyes. They had two demonstrations and left her with samples to experiment with. Her technical engineer came by to clean and calibrate her machinery. A very jolly young man. He always did a very professional job and didn't make a mess like the last one she had. The old one was good too, but she always had to clean up after him. 

Even though she didn't need to sit and watch him anymore she liked to anyway. He always approached her machines with genteelness. He whispered to then very lowly so she could not hear and meticulously cleaned and lubricated them. He touched them kindly and ran his cleaning rag over them with admiration and love.

At least thats the way it seemed.

"Do you have many machines to service?" She asked out of the blue. He blinked a few times then answered.

"Yes, I have many but these are my favorites." He looked at the two in her clinic.

"Why are they your favorite? If you do not mind my asking."

"Because they are good solid machines. They are well made and built to last and work hard. They are not like the digitalized machines of our day. Lots of bells and whistle but no power or desire to work. No, these are better."

"Than I made very good choices." So, she could make some good decisions.

"Hai! That and you keep them in good shape. It is a joy to come and see that you care about them. I am sure they are appreciative as well." He replaced his rags and tools and after looking around to make sure he left things clean, he departed.

It was so much easier to make choices about machine than it was about people. How in the world had she gotten in the middle of all this, she allowed herself to wonder. Yuki, Kaoru and Kamir. How was it that she was so blind to people's true nature? It would never occur to her that Kaoru would cheat on Yuki and more so that Kamir, who was burning up her phone and taking all of her lunch time, would be the one she cheated with! She brought them together. She had opened herself up to sleeping with Kamir. That night, if Shinohara hadn't put that bug of worry in her ear... Her hand clasped over her mouth before rubbing her face.

She needed to stop thinking about it.

Sara worked until it was time to pick up Shouda and tidied up her clinic. She left her assistant to close the store down and walked through the mall dazed. Stepping out into the late afternoon light she saw a figure rise. As she came closer it called to her.

"Sarua."

"Yuki?" She squinted and shielded her eyes from the setting sun.

"Sarua, you are going to get Shouda? Allow me to give you a ride. Please." She could see him clearly now. Worry and concern etched in his face and his hand outstretched to her. She thought about it and realized she didn't really have the energy to walk, so she started towards his car.

"Thank you."

 

Yuki opened the door for her and when she was safely tucked inside, rounded the car and took his seat behind the wheel. After peeling away from the curb he took a few guarded glances at Sara before silently concentrating on the traffic. He was desperate to know what she was thinking, how she was feeling, but was unsure if he should ask. If she wanted to talk about it, she would. That was how she always had been. Yuki figured that if he spent enough time in her presence she might open up.

"Yuki, you should be at work, is that not so? Why are you here?" Sara broke the silence. Yuki kept his eyes on the road as if doing so would obscure the implication of his words.

"I could not get my mind to focus on work so I came and waited for you. It will be a pleasant surprise for Shouda to see us both waiting for him, do you not agree?"

There was a pause. "Yes, he will be very happy."

The least he felt he could do was apologize for his part in the revelation.

"Sarua, I wish to apologize. I am sorry for being indelicate in the way I..."

"Told the truth?" He remained silent at her words. She sighed, "I guess I do not understand men at all."

"There are many books published on the subject so you should not feel alone." This garnered a brief laugh from her. "I too, often do not understand myself."

Her laughs petered out and then there was silence. They were almost to the school and soon she would put on her mask for Shouda. She would escape into being a mother and Yuki would be none the wiser as to her feelings. His grip tightened on the steering wheel in silent frustration.

"I would have never thought them capable of such a thing Yuki." His grip eased. "I never noticed any preference for either on the part of the other." She turned to him. "People do not just trip into bed together.  For how long had they noticed each other? When exactly does ones feeling suddenly transfer to another?"

"Sarua do not become trapped in such thoughts."

"What should I think then?" Yuki could feel her eyes burrow into him. "Perhaps I was a diversion for them both."

"Sarua." He did not like what she was saying. It was unlike her.

"I know, it is not true. I am being unreasonable and very selfish making myself the victim." 

"Not necessarily, it must have been a great shock to you."

She was quiet a moment. "I feel a fool, no, worse than a fool because it was I who brought them together. I am sorry Yuki." She rubbed her forehead and let out a grunt.

"It is not your fault Sarua."

"How can you be so calm Yuki? Your wife has slept with another man."

"I am not in a position to judge Kaoru, Sarua. It is not as if I have fulfilled my part as the perfect husband." He glanced at the disbelief in her face.

"You did not cheat on her...did you?"

"No." He said in surprise. "I did not have an affair while we were married, but you will recall our relationship while she and I were engaged." He paused. He made to look at her again and found her looking down at the seat upholstery. "You must know as well, that our marriage has not been a satisfactory one."

"Kaoru indicated that you were trying to work things out."

"Yes, and we have made much progress, but I will not condemn her for her actions. Nor will I blame you for what has transpired." They pulled into the Academy parking lot and silently vacated the car. He watched her as they walked towards the entrance. "I only wish it had not been with someone to whom you were attached."

He watched Sara open her mouth but the bell cut her short and she turned as children began filing out of the doors. A smile spread across her face and Yuki turned to see Shouda barrel down the steps, eyes wide with delight.

"Mother! Father!" Shouda ran to his mother first giving her a hug and a hurried kiss then lunged for his father who swung him around in the air. He was set down and immediately started rifling through his bag. "Mother, look, I have a project."

Sara kneeled down as he pulled out a paper. "Is that so?"

"It is a poster about the roving Japanese capital. It was moved many times depending on Shogun." She grabbed his hand and stood as she read over the instructions. The three began to walk to the parking lot. "I want it to be done well. Can you help me?"

"I can help you Shouda." Yuki put his hand on his son's head.

"Mother is very good at crafty things. Are you as good as she is?" He looked doubtful. Sara snickered quietly so Shouda would not hear. Yuki, of course, had seen it.

"I can do anything I put my mind to."

"No doubt." She piped in supportively, though her face was anything but. 

"You think that I cannot do as good a job as you?" He quirked a brow.

She looked shocked, "I did not say that Yuki."

"You are a very clever woman Sarua. You are successful at conveying your feelings through more than one avenue." He wore that same arrogant grin of long ago.

"That is true mother." Shouda piped in.

"What?" She could only laugh as one looked at her triumphantly and the other knowingly.

Shouda suddenly stopped and the two, who had been caught up in their own non-verbal battle, now turned to see what was the matter. Shouda was looking at his roaming classmates then drew closer to them.

"There is a boy that gets teased a lot over there. He is not good at sports and he is very shy. I feel sorry for him. Can we invite him for ice cream?" He indicated a rather awkward looking boy with glasses. Everything about him was just a little too something. His head was a little too large, his hair a little too straight, his pants a little too short as well as the sleeves of his uniform jacket. Most disturbing, he seemed a little to solemn for an eight year old.

"What of his parents?" Sara asked looking at the poor creature.

"His family sends a car for him. He told me he is often alone after school."

Yuki raised his brows at Sara who twisted her lips. She shrugged slightly and he nodded his approval. 

"Ice cream is a good idea Shouda." Yuki took his bag as she hurried over to the boy. The boy watched Shouda unmoved as he talked then glued his eyes to the ground as Shouda pulled him over to his parents.

"Mother, father, this is Amami Takebe. Takebe, my mother Sara Richards and my father Umezawa Yukimoto."

"Yes, Amami, your family is in Media and Entertainment." Yuki gave him a smile. He did not respond.

"We are happy you can come with us for ice cream." Sara tried, but again no response. The elderly driver, however, had followed them over and was holding his hat with an eager smile. Sara nodded to him and he returned it. "Where shall we go Yuki?"

Yuki, who had been regarding the boy with interest, now turned toward the car. "I know just the place."

 

End Notes:

In addition to your thoughts on this chapter I would like to get opinions on 2 things:

1. should Kaoru and Kamir be together do you think?

2. how do you think Yuki should announce his feelings to Sara?

Thanks!

Jyuu sichi (17) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

Thanks ladies for the reviews! I will be getting to those.

So now everything is starting to hit the fan...

Excuse errors please.

 

Kamir found his pulse speeding up and sweat threatening to leek out his pores. This was not normal, but then nothing connected to Sara was normal, and he had not even opened the door yet. He was standing outside her shop watching a few people pick over her examples and buyable goods in the showroom. The assistant moved about straightening things, wiping down surfaces and answering questions. If she saw him, she didn't let on and went to answer the phone. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

The assistant looked up then down again. He walked up to her desk and waited for her to attend to him. He turned his head to watch a gentleman and his wife flip through a book of testimonials and when he turned back, the assistant was watching him with a fascinated yet somber expression. He smiled and she returned it.

"Is Sara available?" He asked. He knew she was probably thinking that it had not mattered in the past, but she didn't show it.

"Excuse me a moment please."

He went back to watching the couple read the testimonials until she interrupted him.

"You may go back." She motioned respectfully with her hand toward the panel door and he excused himself.

He wondered how he would find her. He had waited a few days to let her calm down though he had not wanted to. Her behavior that day had scared him though. He wasn't sure what kind of person she was. She kept changing on him. Perhaps that was the wrong way to put it, she never seemed to faithfully match the idea he had of her. He turned the corner into her clinic and she stood waiting for him. Her hair was carefully tucked behind her ears and she stood in a soft yellow vintage dress. Wide straps held the  bodice to her frame and the skirt bloused out slightly. 

"Hello." She looked so delicate and feminine.

"Hello Kamir."

He found himself fidgeting. "You look beautiful."

"Thank you." She motioned toward him. "You look handsome as always."

There was a moment of silence.

"Er...about the other day. I'm sorry."

"Okay." She turned back to clinic table with that as if she were perfectly satisfied.

"Wait, aren't you going to fuss, ask me some questions, slap me across my face - something?"

"Why would I slap you? At the beginning we said we were adults and we didn't know what was going to happen. I'm sure you remember that conversation."

"Yes, but..."

"But?" She turned back to him expectantly.

"But, we were going some where...weren't we?" He was confused now.

She shrugged, "We tried, then you went into Kaoru's pants all by yourself, however, I am of the opinion that we were not going much of anywhere anyway."

"So you're not mad?"

"Kamir, you are a grown man. Who you choose to sleep with is your own business."

"It was only once." He stepped closer.

"Once is enough I think."

"Sara you are being ridiculously calm about this." He scratched his head.

"What do you want me to do? Haven't I made a big enough fool of myself where you are concerned? Perhaps you want me to lower myself even more." Her eyes shined up at him inquisitively.

"No. No, you didn't lower yourself at all."

"I'm glad you think so." She returned to her work.

"Sara, it wasn't your fault."

"Yuki says the same thing but I can't reconcile it. Yes," she turned to him, "I would like to understand at what point your affections switched from me to her. Or, maybe you didn't have any affection for me, you were just having fun. If that was the case then it is my fault because I thought I felt something somewhere."

"Sara, it was a mistake."

"I suppose men think that a lot as they skip from woman to woman like a round shiny rock skidding across the surface of a placid pond." She bounced her hand out in imitation.

"You're comparing me to Yukimoto." He squinted his eyes.

"I am not."

"You are. I am not Yuki Umezawa. I did not make you fall in love with me and then drop you when my mom told me to. I did not abandon you and your baby and marry another woman."

"No, you just slept with one while you were pretended to like another."

"She doesn't want him."

"Marriage is sacred Kamir. You don't go around getting involved with married women."

"You're involved with Yuki and he's married." For some reason he was starting to get more and more irritated as she spoke.

"We are not involved. He is the father of my son..."

"He's a wishy-washy pissant boring spineless man and that's why Kaoru slept with me!" He shoved his thumb back into his chest.

"He is not. He's good. He may not be a flashy charmer winding the world around his finger and he isn't perfect, true, but he's kind and he's humble and he's honest. He's thoughtful and he's considerate."

"I can't believe you are defending him."

"And I can't believe you left my arms and walked straight into her bed!" Kamir flenched. "You, you talk about Yuki like this game you've been playing corroborates the existence of your spine. Like kissing my lips and then doing God knows what to hers makes you look steadfast. Like blaming the whole thing on her while squeaking out," she held up her hand, "‘my bad' glorifies you as debonaire or something. Just who the hell do you think you are judging Yuki? Judging me?"

They stood facing each other over her clinic table. Sara's hands were splayed out over the surface holding her weight agains it. Her eyes were flashing, determined, unpretentious and stubborn. She was beautiful. The wind slowly left his body and he regretted his choice. He had been regretting it since it happened. He should have stayed with her that night. He wish he had. What was it about her? He had never met anyone like her.

"Look at me." He admitted calmly, "You have me so mixed up, I've totally messed up what I came here to do. I want to apologize. It was stupid and presumptuous and wrong." He watched her face soften and he attempted a weak smile. She looked away from him.

"Do you even like her?" She turned to him again.

He shrugged, "She's definitely engaging. I like you."

"Stop flirting with me." There was a stern sound in her voice which contradicted the pout on her face. He put his hands up in surrender. She sighed and he could hear the bell toll before she uttered a word. "I think we should end it like this before things get out of control. I accept your apology. I even thank you for it. I don't hate you or anything, however, as the Japanese say, I think you're a hundred years too late to take me on." She smiled.

"I beg your pardon?"

"We are at different places in our lives Kamir. Right now, at this time, in this place we just met while moving in different directions." He watched her walk towards him and stop in front of him. "You were good to me at a time when I needed it though and I will always be grateful for that." She smiled and wrapped her arms around him much like she had at the restaurant the day she butted heads with Mrs. Umezawa. 

He knew he could try to convince her, be persistent like he had before. God knows he wanted to, but somewhere deep inside he knew she was right, he was what he was and what he was, she wasn't in love with. He hugged her tight and released her when she stepped back.

"We can still have lunch some times?"

"Call Kaoru." Her face dropped and she walked away.

"Man."

 

***

 

Sara hurried through the promenade and emerged searching for his car. She need not have worried, it was right at the curb, he leaning in repose against it observing two Goth clad youths with unmasked morbid fascination. His brow lowered as if contemplating some philosophical complexity. She was almost upon him when he noticed her. He jolted up and the frown disappeared into an appreciative smile.

"Yuki, you did not wait long?"

"No, not at all."

"Why did you not park?" She frowned at him as she lowered herself into his car.

"Parking is for people who have no where to be." He closed the door and she watched him stride arrogantly around his car and rolled her eyes. They were going to buy Shouda's birthday presents. Yuki was unsure as to what to purchase and wanted her assistance. 

Sara thought about her conversation with Kamir and chewed her bottom lip. He was always so easy, nothing seemed to bother him much. Though he did raise his voice twice in her presence, both times it was in response to something to do with Yuki. She stopped chewing and turned to look at him.

"Yes, Sarua?"

Her eyebrows raised at his anticipation. She smiled slightly.

"Kamir came to my clinic today." She watched for a response, but none came. His eyes were intently scrutinizing the road, other car movements and the traffic lights. "He apologized for the other day."

"You are happy with this?"

She stuck her bottom lip out for a moment then, "Yes, I am."

He finally glanced her and smiled with a nod. That seemed to be the end of it.

 

That could not be how it ended. Yuki glared at the car in front of him. They made up? He broke her confidence and they made up? He shifted in his seat. Perhaps he had done a greater injustice to Sara than he thought. It seemed that now she would forgive any man anything. Forget the fact that he slept with a married woman, even though Yuki knew the real situation between he and Kaoru, Sara did not...yet. Not only did she look this over but she decided to continue seeing him.

Maybe she liked him more than Yuki thought she did. He knew she was enchanted by him, enjoyed his company and kissed him...repeatedly...regularly. Stop. Was it possible that she had fallen in love with him? In love like they had been? The thought caused him more pain than he could put into words. He had hoped that after Kaoru was ready to make public the divorce, he could try to mend things with Sara. Get her back. Beg on his hands and knees.

He resented Kamir and his open easy ways and charm. If he tried to do that, he would look like a fool. He couldn't compete with him. Something heavy settled in his heart and he continued to drive in silence.

 

***

 

"I thought you would not come." Kaoru smiled as Kamir sat down at her table.

"Why would I not come?" He sighed and took off his suit coat before laying it over the back of the adjacent chair.

"I think because you are afraid that somehow our meeting would get back to Sarua." He looked up sharply and she smiled indulgently at her jab.

"It does not matter if it does." He said evenly, "She knows about our encounter as does your husband."

She was a bit startled for a second. It passed. Yuki had not said anything and she had not been to check Sara's books. 

"You told Sarua?"

"No, Yukimo-to did. I confirmed it."

"Yuki did?"

She watched him gather his strength and a breath with some irritation and she smiled.

"I went to see Sara. I got in an argument with Yukimo-to," she noticed he kept saying Yuki's name with disdain, "and he guessed out loud."

"You were fighting over Sarua?"

"I was...trying to take Yuki down five or six notches." He rubbed both hands over his face. "And why should I have to compete with him?" He leaned back and rested one hand on the table. "I mean, what does she see in him? I am funner than him, livelier, damn sexier, handsomer. I'm a live man instead of a walking corps."

"Are you throwing a tantrum?" She laughed and he started to laugh with her.

"Yes, I am, damnit."

Karou looked at her hands, "Would you like to go somewhere private to continue to release this pint up aggression?" She looked up, his face a mix of emotions.

"Kaoru, who are you?" He finally said.

"I am me. I am what I have always wanted to be and I am what you need." She blinked her eyes waited.

"You are married. I'm not going to be the other man."

She leaned forward.

"I am free. Yuki and I are divorcing. The papers have been drawn up, filled out, signed and submitted." She watched understanding dawn on his face. Yuki would be free, he would go after Sara and his son.

"He divorced you because of that night?"

"It was mutual. We understand each other. I suggested it though and it was not necessarily because of you."

"I am the rebound guy."

She shrugged, "You need someone to help you regain your footing. You tried to start something contrary to your nature. You were thrown. I will help you back up." She sat her elbow on the table and rested her chin in the palm of her hand. She liked this wholly inappropriate man. He was the stuff dreams were made of, dreams she never though would come true until Sara came along. 

Perhaps she should feel ashamed of herself for propositioning him, feeding into his vices, shutting down any hopes he may have of Sara. Maybe she should, but he did not belong with Sara. Sara was stable and grounded. He was a good time boy, and right now, that was what she, Kaoru wanted, so it worked out. She watched and waited for him to make up his mind.

"As it happens," he reached for is jacket, "I would like to get a few things off my chest."

Kaoru calmly gathered her things as if they were not headed to his hotel room to act like anything but the mature professionals they appeared to be.

 

***

 

Things were interesting, so very, very interesting. Umezawa Kenji padded silently in his slippers to the dinning room where he knew his wife and the Richards to be waiting for lunch. He was especially interested in seeing what would happen at this lunch. Without shame he would announce his interesting news to the table...by mistake.  The relationship they all possessed was due to the fact that the situation was as it is. If the situation were to change, how would their relationship change? What would the reactions be? He missed this feeling of anticipation. Business had since ceased to affect him this way. He paused a moment. As grateful as he was to the success of the Umezawa Group, as much as he enjoyed the fame and power it endowed him, he had to admit that its acquisition caused him to overlook some very important things.

How grateful he was to his wife and son for seeing to it that he did not miss out on all the complexity and frivolity of the human side of life. He should feel heartily ashamed for taking this view. He quickly reflected on his wickedness and then sped up, the sooner he got himself situated, the sooner he could release his news and enjoy the results.

"Hello everyone." He bowed slightly as he entered the room to his wife and guests.

"Kenji, glad to have you come to lunch." Darren nodded his head as Kenji sat down.

"Hello." Percy arranged her napkin in her lap.

"I am happy you decide to eat here, but you must come here at right time." His wife never missed the opportunity to fuss. She tried harder to speak English these days. It was her own fault she did not speak it better, feeling it too superfluous to keep up with.

"Yes, you are right. Isn't it nice that we can eat together?" He was satisfied with the affirmative comments that followed though he couldn't repeat any of them if asked. He was too busy calculating his plan of attack.

The food was served and Darren broached conversation.

"How was business today Kenji?"

"Boring, I am totally and completely bored with it. I wish to retire as soon as possible."

"Nothing like retirement. I have thoroughly enjoyed mine up until now."

"Our interests in the company are doing very well. We left things in the hands of an excellent group of people." Percy smiled brightly.

"You will choose soon too, no?" Izumi turned to Percy. "He is very careful. Many men want job he have."

"Yes, I will have to be careful, and I hope to make the best choice. So much so that I called our lawyer so that he could make some inquiries for me."

"What kind of inquiries?" Percy asked.

"Just into the way they handle accounts and how some of their decisions regarding the company have turned out. It is not easy to do especially since he is now busy trying to clear up Yuki and Kaoru's divorce. He says as soon as that is done he will have more time. Lawyers and very busy people in general I think. I never wanted to be a lawyer myself. Not that my position has been an easy one. Tough decisions have to be made everyday. Isn't that right Darren?" All this he delivered in one easy breath. He noticed the silence after announcing the divorce but ignored it and continued as if he had not said anything to rock the room.

When he finally looked up Izumi looked much like she had just bitten into a lemon, Percy was looking at Darren with mouth agape and Darren looking back at him as if he were a sly little dog. He only returned an innocent expression.

"I'd have to say that's true." Darren said slowly.

"Wait a minute..." Percy began.

"You just say Yukimoto and Kaoru have divorce?" Izumi finished for her.

Kenji stopped and blinked, then looked very grave before feigning innocence again.

"Did I say that?"

"You did, you say Yukimoto and Kaoru divorce."

"When did you find out?" Percy asked after shooting an irritated look at Izumi.

"You see," he began, "you must not say anything, we are not meant to know."

"Oh Lord." Percy closed her eyes.

"Don't jump to any conclusions Percy." Darren warned.

"I'm not jumping to conclusions Darren. Don't you worry about how this will affect Sara?"

"Percy."

"How Yuki not tell us? Now all woman run after him, try to get dirty hands on money." There was an electrifying silence and she and Percy turned to look at each other at the same time.

"What do you mean?" Percy narrowed her eyes at Izumi.

"I mean worthless woman who no good." They both stood up eyes locked.

"Wait now Percy."

"Izumi"

"Worthless you say?" Percy slammed her hands on her generous hips.

"Worse than worthless." Izumi glared.

"Hey now, my daughter is more than worthy of your son." Darren warned. Both women spun around on him.

"Who said Sara was worthless?" Percy demanded.

"Sara not worthless. I dare them say she is. Come, we must talk." With that Izumi marched out of the dinning room with Percy on her heels.

Kenji watched them go with a look of satisfaction on his face. Human interaction was much more interesting than corporate takeovers, financial coups and breakthrough product developments.

"I suppose this went on about like you planned." He turned to Darren who brought his drink to his lips while peering knowingly at Kenji.

"Not at all. I had worked out three scenarios in my mind. How was I to know which one would be the correct one?"

"Well, I'll tell you one thing. If it is your desire to have my daughter end up with your son, you better go and reign them two woman in. Otherwise, you will have a worthless woman hanging on the arm of your son." Darren raised his eyebrows at him and he thought for a moment. 

One could never be sure. 

Maybe it was best to survey the situation.

 

End Notes:

Do you feel Sara was too easy on him?

Do you think Kamir is a dog?

What is Yuki thinking?

What will the mothers do?

Jyuu hachi (18) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

I have to say, I love all your reviews, but I liked this one the best this time: I think it was Jovan who wrote, "Sara acted like a lady, but thought like a man." Many of your reviews are very insightful. I know the general feeling about Kamir - but I can't help it. I like him! EEK! (><) Thank you for the continued encouragement and for sticking with me!

So we continue.

Fairy Tail is a Japanese Manga about a club made up of members with special powers. It is silly and fun and entertaining. There are currently 23 volumes dating back to 2006 I think. If you'd like to take a peek click Fairy Tail Manga. (the link leads to translated versions)

Tried to catch the errors, but I'm sure there are many still present. Please excuse.

 

Yuki and Sara walked into the toy extravaganza palace amid thoughts of their own. Yuki was brooding and Sara was contemplative. Still, they walked along side each other in unison until Yuki went to turn left and Sara head toward the stairs.

"Where are you going?" She asked when he didn't follow.

"To the air hockey tables." He pointed.

"Air hockey?" she laughed.

"What is wrong with air hockey?"

"Nothing, but do you not think it is a bit lavish?"

"It is good clean fun." 

Sara paused a moment and shifted her wait. "You have wanted an air hockey table for how long?" She smiled.

Yuki acted as if he wasn't going to acknowledge the question, then suddenly, "For a long time. Do you think it will not be a good present?" He challenged petulant. "I think we will have much fun playing together." He imagined Shouda jumping around his end of the table in excitement as the puck sped over the table. Shouda morphed into Sara laughing. His smile broadened. Her voice plucked him from his daydream.

"Can you at least wait until he is a bit taller?"

Yuki pondered the logic of her suggestion. "Yes, Ping-Pong then."

"Yuki, how about something like legos." Sara grabbed his arm to pull him with her. He was like Shouda in a candy shop. She wondered if it was a male thing or if it was genetic. The few times she actually took Shouda to a candy shop, he would make a beeline for the largest, stickiest, sweetest item in the store. Then he would proceed to insist in the same fashion until reason got the better of him.

"I like Ping-Pong."

"Come and look please and then we will go. Yes?" She pulled him up the stairs until he started moving of his own accord. She glanced back at him and laughed again.

"Yes, Sarua?" Was all he said with eyebrows raised.

"Air hockey. How many nine year olds have an air hockey table in their home?"

"I am sure I do not know, but it does not follow that my son should not have one." Yuki followed her through the maze of isles slightly in awe until they stopped at the enormous lego section.

"Ah, yes, Ninjago." He walked up to the of ninja lego items: vehicles, temples, dragons.

"Oh look! Batman." Sara walked a different set of items.

"Batman? Sarua this is more Asian." He pointed to the box in his hand.

"Its Chinese Yuki, you are Japanese."

"I know what I am Sarua, I just think this is more culturally close to where he is. Look, he has cool swords and this temple is very well done. Do you not think so?" He held it out to her for viewing, but she was engrossed in her box.

"It is the bat cave. Every child should have a bat cave. There is a holding cell and these little rockets shoot out." She looked up at him with animation then looked back at the box and turned it over. A frown darkened her brow. "Bane breaks into the bat cave? No one breaks into the bat cave, what could they be thinking? And why would they be holding Poison Ivy in the bat cave to begin with? Makes no sense." She looked back up at him for confirmation.

"You see, Batman makes no sense, which is why Ninjago is better." His free hand ran across the box fingers closed, palm up, Price-is-right style.

"You are a Spiderman fan Yuki. Please do not let it be so." She said dramatically.

Yuki sighed, "I care very little for American super heroes."

"Meaning you want that only because it has an Asian feel to it?" She questioned in mock surprise.

"No."

"Racist." She pointed and laughed. Yuki slid his eyes off to the left and suppressed the smile fighting to curve his lips.

"Fine, we will not do your American superhero and we will not do Ninjago. We will do this." He walked a bit down the isle past Sara and stopped in front of a group of boxes with Atlantis across them in big sharp looking letters.

"Underwater?"

"The Portal of Atlantis." He picked up the box and she looked it over with him.

"A Portal Emperor..."

"Squid and Shark warriors..."

"There are five Atlantis treasure keys to open it." She looked at Yuki. "He'll need a submarine or something."

"The Neptune Carrier. It has a seabed rover and scout mini sub." Yuki grabbed and displayed it triumphantly.

"Oooohhhhhhh."

 

Yuki calmly nursed a dark blend of Latin American and Indonesian coffees while Sara sipped on a full bodied Darjeeling tea. 

"Very satisfactory." Yuki said after placing his cup on the small round table between them.

Sara looked from him to the gifts and sighed. Four lego Atlantis sets, an iPad 2, volume 32 of Fairy Tail (in Japanese), iTunes gift card, iPad cover, Fairy Tail bag, a Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2, I Spy game pack, Monopoly and National Geographic Challenge playing games.

"You are setting a horrible precedent Yuki." Not that Shouda was undeserving of being spoiled every now and then, but what would he expect for his next birthday or Christmas from now on. Maybe this was the depression that set in after major purchases.

"It is my first birthday, I think I can indulge him this time." Nine years old and it was his first birthday with his father. He had many years of gift giving to make up for.

"No one will be able to say that you do not indulge him."

"It was you who told me he likes to play Scribblenauts and mahjong on the computer."
"But I did not say buy and iPad 2."

"Sarua, how could he play the two games without a device to play it on? He could not have an iPad without a decent cover and he could not buy the games without a gift card. It was also you who pointed out the other two Atlantis sets."

"It is not my fault." Sara laughed in defense.

"I am not saying it is your fault. I am saying that if you had not told me these things, I would not have had to buy them." His heart was very light, yet he regarded her with a controlled countenance.

"Yuki, you...it is the same thing as saying it is my fault."

He could not help but laugh as Sara flailed her arms around in exasperation. She was priceless. Of course, she had to know she had not objected to any of the things he bought, except two which were not with them. 

She had oh'd and ah'd at the iPad and picked the gift card color Shouda would like the best with much enthusiasm. She had deliberated back and forth over both the extra two Atlantis lego sets before announcing her findings. She had practically ran to the shelf with the newly released Fair Tail volume sitting on it and spoke wishfully about how she had wanted to get Shouda his own Wii since he liked his grandfather's so much. This lead, of course, to an acceptable number of games. 

How could he possibly turn her down or say no? Not when he wished to give her any and everything she wanted. Not when she looked up at him with that lovely expression he had seen so many times reflected in his son. Not when she squealed with delight every time he said he would buy another item. This Sara was his Sara, the carefree one he had fallen in love with so long ago.

He fought the urge to reach across the small table and take her hand in his.

"I must take you back to your shop." He stood and grabbed his coat sliding his had through the arm. When he looked down at Sara, she was looking down into her empty cup with a slightly doleful expression on her face. His mind began to race as to what plausible suggestion he could make next to keep them together.

"You are right Yuki. I have work to do." She lifted her head with resolve and put her own jacket around her shoulders. Yuki held it while she put her arms in and then reached for his bags. 

 

Sara could not help but think of her afternoon with Yuki as she worked. It reminded her of old times. He was his old self. She loved his superficial arrogant and stubborn nature. The witty banter and self-restraint. Most of all, she liked being with him because they knew each other. They were in tune. They did every thing as much for each other as for Shouda. She felt giddy, then chastised herself. Yuki was married and she had work to do. About a half hour later, she stopped. Where would Yuki and Kaoru go from here?

 

***

 

Yuki entered his parents home laden with bags. He was eager to show someone else what he had bought. He asked one of the servants who was home and upon finding out that everyone was in a sitting room, he felt excitement and started to grab his bags.

"Allow me Sir." The servant reached for them.

"No, no, I can do it myself. Thank you." He hoisted them and marched in his slippers to the sitting room. The servant opened the door and he stepped in with a large smile on his face. What greeted him was four rather stunned faces. 

"Hello. I have just been birthday shopping for Shouda with Sarua. You must see what I have bought. Sarua was invaluable in helping me." He stopped and looked at the Richards before switching over to English. "Um, I-have bought gifts. These are - for Shouda. With Sarua. Her - help is very good." He smiled and plunged back into his bags.

"For Sarua?" Izumi asked.

"No, for Shouda."

"But with Sara, you said?" Percy added.

Yuki looked back and forth between the women apprehensively. "Yes."

"Well, let's see what you bought then." Percy arranged her chair to get a better view and Izumi sat beside her.

Yuki looked at his father curiously.

"Please, proceed." His father waved him on.

Yuki then turned his attention to Darren for some sign of what may be going on, but got nothing.

"Don't leave us hanging now. Go on and show us what you bought the grand baby." He came up and stood behind Percy peering at the full bags.

Yuki blinked a few times, "Yes, Sarua says Shouda likes Fairy Tail." He pulled out the volume and the bag.

"Fairy Tail? What is that?" Darren asked as Izumi grabbed the bag and the book.

"I believe it is like a comic book but in Japanese we say manga." Kenji watched Izumi pass the prizes on to Percy.

"Very good bag Yukimoto. Shouda will like."

"There - is more. He likes to-play on your Wii." He pulled out the box with the device in it and the games.

"Look at that!" Darren exclaimed. "What games did he get there Percy?" He handed of the Fairy Tail items to Kenji as Izumi shook her head and handed the games to Percy.

"I Spy, Super Mario Galaxy 2..."

"That's brand new."

"Monopoly and National Geographic Challenge." She handed them to him.

"No Wii Sports? Well, that's the one he'd like the best. Monopoly ain't bad. Yuki, you have to go back and buy the, no I'll get if for him." Darren waved it away as he passed on the games to Kenji.

"Also, an iPad..."

"Two?" Izumi took the box from him. "Yuki, you buy too much." She fussed as she took the cover from him.

"Oh, I like the color." Percy exclaimed.

"Sarua picked it." Yuki beamed.

"She did, did she?" Percy smirked.

"Is that a gift card?" Darren covered over her inability to be discreet.

"Yes, and legos." Yuki pulled one box after the other out of the bag.

"Too much, too much, too much." Izumi chanted as she took one after the other.

"It is not too much dear." Kenji inspected the iPad 2. "I only wish you had allowed us to share in the fun. Now we have to go try to find some way to top you."

"Impossible." Yuki stated proudly.

"I'm beginning to agree with you." Darren turned the lego box over in his hand.

"Oh, you will not mind? I have-a Ping-Pong table delivered - here and large, pebble? - pebble pillows." He demonstrated their size holding his arms wide.

"Cushions, for lounging?" Percy asked and corrected at the same time.

"Cushions? Cushions - yes."

Darren walked over to Yuki. "You've done well son. Good and well. Everything is very nice." He patted Yuki on the shoulder. Again, Yuki became apprehensive.

"Yuki," Izumi began, "I have..."

"Dear, have you in mind what you want to suggest for Shouda's party?" Kenji stepped to her.

"But..."

"I didn't think so. The servants will be waiting for their instructions, or maybe we should have it at Yuki's flat."

"What? No, should be here in Umezawa home. It is first birthday with us." Izumi started to calculate and Kenji gently guided her out of the room. Yuki watched them go.

"That's right. After looking at all this stuff, we have to figure out what to get our grand baby." Darren grabbed Percy's hand.

"Darren, don't try to play me." Percy warned.

"You are mistaken Percy, I'm trying to help you. Now let's go figure out what to get Shouda for his birthday." He gave his best ‘shut your mouth and follow me' look. Percy stared at him a moment.

"Okay." She said giving him a regal look and promptly pulled him out the room. Darren gave Yuki a wink and a smile before he disappeared out the door.

Yuki stood in the room with Shouda's gifts sitting on the table where Kenji had placed them. Two servants stood by admiring them. He cross an arm over his chest and brought the other up, resting his thumb and pointer finger to his chin. The parents were getting along much better these days. No, that was not it. He was feeling much like the butt of a really bad joke.

"Would you like us to wrap the presents for young master Shouda Sir?" This brought Yuki out of his thoughts and he turned to the servant.

"Yes, please, and store them somewhere safe for now. Two more items will be arriving later. Please see to those as well."

"Yes Sir." The servants began to gather the gifts and leave the room.

 

Previous to Yuki's Entrance

 

"Simply put, we shouldn't know anything about the divorce." Kenji said for the fourth time to his wife.

"How can Yukimoto not tell us such important thing? We must talk to him."

"How can we talk to him about something we should not know is happening?" Kenji tried to reason.

Izumi only frowned.

"I am not quite sure what you two are trying to plan, but I have a good guess." Kenji looked from his wife to Percy.

"All I want to know is how this will affect my daughter. I have no intensions of having her break down in my arms again cause of Yukimoto's bad decisions." Percy asserted.

"Percy, don't go throwing accusations." Darren warned from his comfortable chair. Unlike Kenji, who was right in the middle of the two women, Darren sat on the sidelines watching Kenji try to deal with the storm he started. To his credit, he wasn't doing so bad. He could definitely see why Kenji was a good businessman.

"I am one hundred percent sure that Yukimoto will have no one but your daughter." Kenji soothed.

"How do you know?" Was Percy's challenge.

"Because I know my son. If she rejects him, however, it may change things. Is she seeing anyone?" Kenji asked calmly.

"Kind of." Percy huffed. "There is this Muslim that's been hanging around."

"He's Hindi." Darren corrected.

"Is she serious about him?" Kenji asked.

"Possibly." Percy offered.

"No." Darren answered.

"How do you know?" Percy asked him.

"Because I know my daughter." He raised his eyebrows. Percy rolled her eyes.

"That mean, we must do something about Hindi man and persuade Yukimoto to be with Sarua." Izumi logically concluded.

"No, it means we will leave the kids to themselves. They will do it on their own." Kenji patted his wife's shoulder.

"How you know?" she challenged.

"He did it the first time without our help did he not?"

Both Percy and Izumi huffed for different reasons. They had been on different sides of the conflict last time. They both remembered their roles and what they learned they should have done.

Izumi knew she should have stayed out of it last time. Her involvement made Yuki unhappy and brought Kaoru into their lives, which proved to be disastrous. She was not thoroughly convinced Yuki would do enough to get Sara back. Did he have enough fight? Should she not just help him along a bit?

"Izumi, Yuki is capable. Have faith in your son." Kenji half whispered his words.

Percy felt she should have been more involved. Not just taken what Sara said at face value. She had no idea what kind of man Yuki had been, what he was like or what he came from. She had blindly let Sara walk into a harmful situation and watched in horror from thousands of miles away as if fell apart. She should have given more guidance.

She felt Darren squeeze her hand. At some point he had walked up behind her. She sighed and a restful silence filled the room.

 

***

 

In the hours that ticked away:

 

Izumi busied herself with plans for decorating the house for Shouda's birthday, but thoughts of Shouda's desire to be a family with a new sibling dominated her mind.

 

Percy rested on the bed with Darren giving her opinion on what he showed her on his iPad while thinking of Sara crying over Yuki not fighting for her.

 

Darren scrolled through possible gifts on his iPad, occasionally getting Percy's point of view on one item or another hoping she would use discretion when dealing with the young people.

 

Kenji decided to reconfirm the reservations he made for everyone at the hot springs. There he could lay a sufficient amount of booby traps to help his son along.

 

Yuki thought of Shouda's face when he finally saw his gifts and sharing the moment with Sara like he should have been doing all along.  He simply had to get her back, no matter what the cost.

 

Sara reviewed a contract with an executive from a dinning club. They wished to have her prepare their menu formats for the next year. She was looking forward to the challenge of designing them for an array of foods and seasons.

 

Kamir and Kaoru were otherwise engaged.

 

Shouda gazed with excitement at the full marks he received on his latest test. He was going to be the smartest man the world had ever seen and make his mom and dad proud.

 

Takebe who sat beside Shouda looked at his own full marks and smiled. He decided he liked Shouda and would really like to be his friend.

 

The Shinoharas sat by the river. Mrs. Shinohara squinted at her soduko book through thick glasses and chewed on the end of her pencil. Mr. Shinohara felt the winds of change and closed his eyes with an approving grunt.

 

End Notes:

No matter what you are going through or feeling, there is always someone somewhere thinking, worrying, caring about you. We touch the lives of others everyday and in turn are touched. If we can look at each encounter as a learning experience then we can try our best to touch those around us in a positive way. Negativity needs no help, it does alright all by itself.

Yes, I'd definitely have to say this is a reoccuring philosophy in this story.

 

Jyuu kyu (19) by puertaobierta
Author's Notes:

So I've been sitting on this chapter for a while. I re-wrote it a couple of times. I stared at it, re-read it, huffed over it and finally finished it. 

Well, anyway, here it is. Sorry I've been so stingy with it. So I'm guessing things will get interesting from here on with our little couple. Depends on the muse. He's a squirrelly little sucker.

No new terms.

 

Sara blinked at her son in shock, fear and bewilderment. Did he just ask if he could spend the night with his classmate? He had never asked such a thing before. What should she do? Would he be safe? Was this the beginning of his junket into defiance, independence and the social and emotional separation which plagues concerned parents until sometime into the child's thirties? She only smiled in response while quickly trying to gather her thoughts.

"You know Takebe right? We went for ice cream." Shouda continued with animation.

"Not the young man whose parents are never home?"

Shouda twisted his lips in a frown. "I knew you were going to say that."

"Then you know my answer." Sara turned to the ridiculously extravagant newsletter the Academy sent home. It was like a magazine, glossy paper, pictures, advertisements and news. "How in the world do they afford this?" She flipped through the pages noting print quality, color and paper stock.

"But, he invited me mom." Shouda pleaded. He was situated beside his mother at the table doing homework. Now his pencil was paused, his kanji assignment forgotten.

"How about we invite him over to our house to spend the night. What do you think of that?" Shouda continued to frown. "Shouda, its not a good idea for you two to run around unsupervised. What if something happens?"

"I know how to call emergency services, I know not to take drugs or smoke and I know not to go onto the internet and look at naked women."

"What about magazines?" Sara turned to her son.

"That's bad too."

"Why?"

"Because it objectifies women, turning them into a mass of body parts instead of living breathing humans with thoughts and feelings." He hunched over on his elbows.

"And?" She slid down to his level.

"It will retard my normal sexual growth." Shouda rolled his eyes.

"Good, and?" She kiss his fat cheek.

"I wouldn't like it if it were pictures of my mom or sister or close friend."

"Well, you know all the right words, but you still might be curious. What would you do if Takebe tried to get you to do something we've discussed is wrong? You know, his parents may not think so. He may feel you are being silly if you refuse." She watched her son with a composure she didn't really feel.

Shouda was quiet a minute. He didn't think Takebe would do something like that. He was much too quiet and reserved, but mom always said you never know. So, what would he do?

"I'm not curious mom." He said making a definite decision, "I know drugs are dangerous and smoking is bad for my health. Plus, they don't interest me. How can I be the smartest man in the world if I kill my brain cells and what's smart about making my lungs ugly and turning yellow and getting sick on purpose?"

"Smartest man in the world?" Sara touched her forehead to his.

He grinned, "Yeah."

"That is a super cool goal." She smiled back.

"I can do it too. Did you see my exam reports?" Shouda touched his nose to hers and crossed his eyes.

"How could I not? You taped them to my mirror. You did very well and I am extremely proud of you." Sara engulfed her son in a hug and felt him squeeze back. "That is why I want to protect what you put in here." She tapped his head. "There won't be room for all the stuff you have to know to be the smartest man in the whole world if its filled with dirty pictures and unkind thoughts."

He leaned back, "Honestly mom, I would be very angry if it were my sister, even though I don't have one, or you in those pictures. I wouldn't want anyone to see, I won't look either. I promise. If he doesn't like it," Shouda shrugged, "I don't have to be friends with him."

"I am very happy to hear your determination Shouda, so lets invited him over to stay here first."

"Okay. I know, I can introduce him to Shinohara and see what dad thinks too. You trust them don't you?"

"Yes, I trust them."

 

***

 

"Interesting. You have already spoken to him about sex?" Yuki shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"Yes, of course." Sara was quiet a moment. "That is not the point Yuki."
"I know." Yukimoto gazed out the window of his office slightly horrified. Sara called and told him Shouda was asked to spend the night with Amami Takebe, she had then launched into the entire conversation. He never had ‘the talk' with his parents, much less at such a young age. "The Amami family is into different forms of media talent, modeling, music, shows, idols, movies. They have been very successful. Their models often grace the front of magazines, their talent preforms in dramas and so on. If I am not mistaken, they have a singing group and a solo artist doing very well in the music industry."

"Good for them, but what kind of people are they?"

"I do not know really. Their son has asked Shouda to spend the night, however, and it is important to be careful of his association. I will look into it. Perhaps we can invite them to lunch or dinner depending on their schedule."

"That is a good idea Yuki."

 

Sara finished her conversation with Yuki and returned the phone to the receiver. She had no intentions at all of blindly letting Shouda go over to Takebe's house. Getting to know his parents was a start though. She did not want to deny Shouda his first friendship either.

She took a deep breath and went to concentrate on her work when Kaoru stepped into her clinic.

"Hello Sarua."

"Hello Kaoru. Have you come to check on my books?" Sara smiled. What was between Kaoru and Yuki was just that.

"Briefly yes. More importantly, I want to talk to you...about Kamir."

"Kaoru, Kamir and I are not pursuing anything more than friendship. Though it may have seemed we were trying for more, we decided this was for the best."

"There is not doubt in my mind, Saura, that if you called Kamir right now and told him you wished to have a more intimate relationship with him, that he would agree." Sara sighed. "I know that it was you that made the decision and I know why."

Sara raised her hand, "Perhaps in some way, but I think this is really between you and Yuki, is it not?

"Yes, however, you are involved too." Kaoru came and sat on the stood beside Sara. "We are all connected, are we not?"

"If Yuki does not see fit to judge you one way or the other, who am I to do so? I will admit to being shocked and a little angry when Kamir confirmed the affair. I felt used and stupid. Since then, Kamir and I have talked and though I would not have done the same thing, it has nothing to do with me." Sara shook her head and looked down at the work in front of her.

"We can still be friends?"

"Of course."

"You know, I am glad you and Kamir are not serious. I did not think he was good for you." Karou said after a few minutes.

Sara laughed. "No?"

Kaoru shook her head.

"You do not feel that I have stolen something from you?" Kaoru looked down.

"No, Kamir was fun and I enjoyed him, but we were not really heading anywhere significant." She looked at Kaoru. "Please forgive me for asking, but why would you do this?"

"You mean, to Yuki? Did he seem very upset to you?"

Sara blinked, "Well, no."

"He was very calm when I told him as well." She paused. "I do not know how to describe it to you. I had felt dead for so many years. I walked around in that dimness that saturates everything right before the night pushes the last murky glow of the sun from the sky. I felt blinded by the shadows." Kaoru looked at Sara. "Do you know what that is like?"

"Perhaps, during the time after Yuki left me."

"You did not stay there. You are not that kind of woman. I needed to break free. I needed to know I was still breathing, that I still had control of me and my life. Yuki understands this. He is a good man."

Sara reached over and grabbed Kaoru's hand. "Yes, he is. I cannot say that I completely understand, but I honestly hope that everything works out for the two of you."

"It will, thank you Sarua. I will look at your books now."

"Help yourself, I am glad to hand it over to you." Kaoru got up and walked over to her desk. "Kaoru, thank you for coming to talk to me about it."

"That is what friends do, do they not? I am glad you are my friend and despite all that has happened. I wish for you to feel that I am yours as well."

Sara couldn't help but feel the situation a bit odd. Friends with her ex-lover's wife who recently found out her husband had a child. Well, stranger things have probably happened.

Kaoru was feeling satisfied with how she handled the conversation. She had thought to tell Sara she had divorced Yuki, then changed her mind. It would be better coming from him.

 

k57;k57;k57;k57;k57; k57;k57;k57;k57;k57; k57;k57;k57;k57;k57; k57;k57;k57;k57;k57;

 

Yuki felt restless, not because it was his first birthday with Shouda, but because of the conversation with Kaoru on the ride over to his parent's house.

 

"Yuki, I am ready. I will tell my parents of the divorce tomorrow. Thank you for keeping this a secret for me." She stared out the window then turned to him with a smile.

"You are sure?" To say he was surprised would be an understatement. Yuki tried to act calm even though he began to feel agitated. Why would she choose now to tell him? He had to admit not understanding the way her mind worked, he was glad it would not be a secret anymore, yet... He instantly thought of Sara.

"Are you thinking of Sarua?"

Yuki glanced at Kaoru in the passenger seat and lifted his chin. He opted not to answer.

"It is fine if you are. I was thinking of her too. I went to see her the other day. We had a pleasant conversation. I did not tell her about the divorce."

Yuki felt Kaoru was watching him, so he kept his eyes on the road and hoped she did not see his irritation. Why didn't she tell her? How could he possible do so without it seeming he was trying to come in between she and Kamir?

 

Even though he stood still watching the servants finish decorating the room, inside his stomach was twisting within itself. He had to tell someone, he had to do something. His feet began to move on their own down the hall. He was very doubtful of the outcome of his decision, but for some reason he kept moving forward.

They did not have this type of relationship so why was he determined to expose himself to them without a careful plan? Still, his hand raised and knocked on the door.

"Come in." The startled voice called out. Yuki opened the door and saw his mother sitting poised to deal with any problem that had surfaced with her careful preparations. "Oh, Yuki, it is you. I thought it was one of the servants."

"Dear, how does this look?" His father came from another room and posed for his wife.

"For goodness sake, this is the birthday of your grandson, not a golfing trip." She walked over to him and shook her head.

"You have not had a complementary word to say about anything I have put on thus far." He straightened his polo shirt.

"That is because I want you to wear the yukata."

"A yukata." Kenji scrunched his face up.

"Everyone else is wearing one. You will look distinguished. Do you not think so Yuki?" She turned to him and his father noticed him for the first time.

"Ah, Yuki. You look very handsome indeed. Have they started to arrive? Are you nervous my son?" He patted Yuki's shoulders reassuringly.

"No, I..."

"Please tell him to wear the yukata." Izumi interrupted.

"I want to talk with you."

Kenji observed his son a moment.

"What is the matter?"

Yuki lifted his shoulders and look his father square in the eyes. "Kaoru and I have divorced. I did not tell you due to the request not to from Kaoru. She will tell her parents tomorrow and I wanted to tell you myself." He shifted his gaze to his mother. Both were quiet. His brow knitted. How unusual.

"Are you satisfied with this outcome?" His father asked cautiously.

"Yes, it was a mutual decision, however..." He couldn't seem to put his feelings into words. Agreeing to the divorce and keeping it private was one thing. Knowing that soon everyone would know was quite another, or maybe it was just one person in particular.

"You must not think about the past in terms of failure, my son. If I did that, I'm sure I would be a miserable man, but look at me," Kenji turned around for his son, palms to the ceiling with a contented look on his face. "I am a happy grandfather, proud father, rich, amazingly intelligent man. All we can do is try to not make the same mistakes again."

Yuki chuckled at his father.

"We must not worry about what others may think. People like to judge, though they have not sufficient knowledge with which to do so. As long as those closest to you understand the truth." He gazed steadily at his son.

"Speaking of people knowing. Once word spreads around every idiot woman and her mother will be throwing themselves at you." Izumi began.

"Dear," Kenji said patiently but never broke eye contact with his son. "Do the people most important to you know?"

"You must be prepared Yukimoto. You must make a wise choice." She continued unfazed. "That is why I think you ought to talk..."

Kenji sprang into action sensing that his dear wife was forging ahead with her own disastrous plan even though he had it covered, albeit more discreetly. "My dear, now is not the time to talk about other woman. Yuki has no need for more women in his life than he already has." He gave is wife a determined look. She lifted her head, but turned back to her vanity.

"Very well." She relented curtly.

"Father, would you please wear a yukata during the birthday party for my son?" Yuki was looking at his mom's retreating frame. She turned around with a radiant smile and Yuki returned it.

Kenji sighed in his peripheral vision. "So be it." He turned and walked with very little enthusiasm into his closet.

 

When Kenji emerged from his closet adjusting his yukata, Yuki was no where to be seen.

"He left." Izumi said to his reflection in the her mirror.

"Dear, I do wish you not to force him. I think we have the same goal. You should not push ahead of me, I know what I am doing." He pulled more on his yukata and Izumi joined him tugging on his obi.

"Yuki is timid."

"You will end up doing the same thing you did before." Kenji took his wife's face in his hands. "Leave him be."

"But..."

"No buts." Izumi dropped her gaze to this.

"You do look handsome. Not like you looked back in when we were younger of course. Ah, then you had such a stature, made me week in the knees." She smiled still not looking him in the eyes.

"To me, you are just as beautiful as you were then. Especially when you are not scowling." A short burst of laughter escape Izumi. "Come wife." Kenji held out his arm for her to take.

 

***

 

"Darren, if this little Japanese woman tugs on me one more time, I think I might push her to the ground." Percy stood in a funked cloud of irritation. Two servants had been wrapping her in this impossible yukata for what seemed like hours. They pushed, pulled, jerked and wiped their brows every few minutes. "This is some kind of sick idea of a fat joke isn't it?"

Darren looked at his wife with a hint of a smile dancing at the corner of his mouth. He had been dressed for a while now. "It is no such thing Percy, and you ain't fat, you are well endowed."

"Its that Izumi's fault for making everyone wear this insufferable getup." Her eyes slid to one of the servants as, yet again, she dragged her wrist across her brow. Percy huffed.

"Don't impart bad motives on people just cause things are a bit uncomfortable." The servants stood back and walked around her. "Look, I think they may be done." He sat up in his chair. He watched as they guided her over to the mirror. "Well, now, don't you look a sight?"

Percy's eyes landed on her person and widened. She turned to the left and then the right. "Would you look at that! They made my butt disappear."

"Its just hiding in all its hot damn glory."

"Darren, you are too old to be this stupid." Percy's eyes danced across the vibrant fabric. Izumi had picked out the material for her. The gold of the fabric shimmered with an antique pattern of cherry blossoms peppered throughout in various sizes and shades of red. Her obi perfectly matched the red peddles. "Not bad at all."

She was interrupted by the servants ushering her to sit at the vanity.

"What in the world do they want now?" She turned to a shrugging Darren as she followed. They sat her down and then started touching her dreads. "What in the...?" She ducked a few times but they were very persistent. They rattled on in Japanese completely ignoring her discomfort as they began to lift up the dreads and twist them into one another. Percy looked from one to the other as their eyes widened and they laughed continuing to chatter. "I think they're laughing at me."

"They are not. Just let them do their thing."

A few minutes later, Darren escorted his Japanese wife down the hall towards the colorfully decorated birthday room, chignon peppered with cherry blossom hair pins and all.

 

***

 

A very distinguished looking Shinohara alighted from the large Mercedes and stood gazing at the substantial Umezawa home with a discriminating eye. His wife followed and pointed out some features of the house. 

A very excited Shouda bounced out the car and ran toward the steps before remembering something and returning to take his mother's hand to help her ease out. The heavy doors opened and without any hesitation, Shouda then raced through them.

"Dad!" He yelled as soon as he crossed the threshold. After quickly changing shoes he took off down the hall. "Dad!"

He saw his father step out of a room and ran into his arms.

"Happy birthday Shouda." Yuki hugged his son tightly.

"It is our first birthday together. You are the best birthday present of all." Shouda whispered warmly next to his ear. Yuki felt as if he began to float. Ever cell in his body tingled and he was so filled with love for the young human he helped create in his arms, that he felt it would overflow spilling out from the top of his head, soon flooding the whole house.

"I love you Shouda." It was something his father rarely told him when he was growing up. He was determined to not follow suit and from this day forward to repeat it as often as possible.

"I love you too, dad." Shouda lifted his head from his father's shoulder and they gazed happily at one another. They became aware that they were not alone but surrounded by smiling family and discreet servants.

Yuki's eyes fell on Sara who seemed to barely hold back tears. Her eyes shined compassionately, lovingly at them both. She noticed Yuki observing her and lowered her eyes pretending to wipe something off her the skirt of her yukata. He smiled and thought of his father's words:

Yuki has no need for more women in his life than he already has.

Kamir was everything he was not, but if he had to fight him, he would. He had history with Sara, some of it not so good, but there were many positive pleasant provocative memories he could use and he would wield them relentlessly. He would stand back and let Kamir have his way no longer.

He stood up and walked toward her now. She continued to hide her eyes from him until he stood in front of her and held out his hand. Sara looked startled and a bit confused but she took it. He then greeted the Shinoharas as everyone started to enter into the room. There was a heavy knock on the door and a servant shuffled over quietly and opened it.

Takebe stood with his chauffeur behind, holding presents. His hat perched on the top.

"Takebe!" Shouda ran to him and look around him. "Your parents did not come?"

Takebe answered with a shake of the head.

"I do not mind. Come on!" He grabbed his friend's hand and pulled him down the hall and into the room decorated for his birthday.

As the hall cleared, Yuki turned to Sara. Her innocently perplexed eyes watched the people disperse. She was probably wondering why he was still holding her hand, why he and she remained stationary and what she should do. It did not escape him that she had yet to pull her hand from his.

"He reminds me of you in so many ways Sarua."

She looked up at him. 

"I feel the same about Shouda and you." She pointed smiling reminiscent.

"You were always so bright."

"And you so calm."

He smiled. "Your openness is captivating."

"Your assiduous nature endearing."

"That innocence deposing."

Sara blinked a few times. "You are always thoughtful. It puts me at ease."

He squeezed her soft hand and lifted it. His gaze shifted to it as he ran his thumb across her knuckles.

Sara fidgeted at the intensity of his hold of his eyes on her hand. She was thoroughly confused and...and hot! She had no idea what was going on, why Yuki was acting this way. The Yuki of long ago. The one who could barely contain himself when in her presence. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest.

His eyes linked with hers again and he dipped his head. The voice in Sara's head screamed for her to dodge, turn her head, anything except let him kiss her. Her feet had a different plan. They stayed stationary as did everything else as his beautiful face came closer to hers.

He hovered a moment.

"Sarua, we must talk later."

She nodded mutely as his eyes swept her face. He gave a slight nod and then turned and pulled her to the birthday room.

Sara shuffled behind him. She looked down at their still joined hands.

One word managed to escape her lips. It was barely audible, in fact, she wondered if he even heard it. She wondered if he had, would they still be entering the room. Surely he would have known, he would have felt it. The fact that at that very moment she was unquestioningly open to him. Longing for him. Sinfully.

"Yuki?"

 

End Notes:

So I know some of you were complaining cause they haven't thoroughly talked the situation out, but now that Yuki is maning up, what do you think?

This story archived at http://www.valentchamber.com/viewstory.php?sid=1561