By the end of March, Maia was too pregnant to keep her condition a secret from anyone. Once of the more interesting rumors at Orinda High was that Evan was the father-to-be. I made the mistake of pretending I believed it in front of a couple of the worst gossips. But that brought up the issues that Evan still had about me and Maia. I lost my temper and we had a big fight and stopped going out together.
I guess we might have patched up things after a couple of weeks if it hadn't been for Ken's dad, or what I did about Ken's dad. Ken's dad got arrested with a lot of drugs, way more than any user would need. His mom talked to my mom, and Okasan decided to try to help. Unfortunately Evan found out about it, and he was really upset. When he finally to me about it, it became another fight, and he screamed at me, "I can't have you fixing everything for me! Do you know how that feels?"
Before I thought, I said it: "Yes, just exactly like your father." It was true, absolutely true; he knew it, and I knew it. But I wish I hadn't said it.
Evan just left without another word. Later that day, he wasn't angry any more, but he'd made a decision. He said to me, "It just isn't going to work out between us." I agreed with him. We shook hands, and then we parted. I didn't start crying until I got home that night.
A few days after Evan broke up with me, Johnny Brown lost his virginity. He didn't talk to anyone about it except his best pal: Pleione. "He thinks he should marry her now," Pelly told me.
"They're not married yet," I said, but the same evening, Johnny was proposing to Henriette.
In May our house was like the Heartbreak Hotel. Besides me and Pleione, Auntie Minako was getting over this English guy she'd loved a long time ago. He had some problems dealing with how, shall we say, colorful most of Auntie Minako's kids are. After that and losing Uncle Kevin and then Lord Yaten--I don't think I would have come out of my room for maybe a year if all that had happened to me. Auntie Rei was getting in deeper with a married guy, though it wasn't technically an affair yet. And I began to catch mom thinking about Seiya more and more.
Hormones were making Maia into a different person sometimes. One day she'd be fine; the next she'd stay home all day and make drawings of me. She wasn't the only one making pictures of me; Dex was still churning them out, and Alcyone hated them. Deja wasn't pregnant, but she was up and down too, certain that she would be Kag's consort, and then certain he was just being polite.
So we staggered into June: Term papers to finish, final exams and then, of course, the Prom once again; for Dex and Johnny, graduation as well.
Or at least for Dex . . .
A few days before the end of my second year in high school, a story broke. Gamblers had paid high school and junior college athletes to throw games or shave points. At first, there was no word on who was involved. Then police detectives showed up at Orinda High.
Johnny Brown was expelled the next day. He was off the campus before Pleione or I knew about it. That night Pleione called Henriette to ask her what she knew about it, after she'd tried to call Johnny. Henriette knew quite a lot: Johnny had made a confession, saying that he had taken a bribe. She also told Pleione that her parents had forbidden her to see Johnny any more. I smelled something wrong there, and the next morning before classes I found her and asked her about that. She stuck to her story, but I read her (of course.) "You know Johnny isn't guilty," I said to her.
"Maybe not, but I don't know," she lied. She knew him well enough.
"Maybe it was his mother," I said. "Maybe he's covering for her." She had called him once in the middle of a game, saying she was injured; he'd gone home. That was how she had fixed the game; I'd known for a long time. Of course, I couldn't tell her that.
"I guess that might be so," said Henriette, looking away from me, "But like I said, my parents say I can't see him any more." She excused herself and left. I didn't chase her; I knew enough now. Henriette wasn't going to see Johnny Brown again if she could help it.
There was only one more day after that, a half-day, with Prom Night that evening. The night before, I had another dream that seemed more than a dream.
I was Chasing Evan and Johnny Brown. We were in a rocky, narrow valley, very dusty, very dry; it was some kind of desert, and the sunlight was very bright. They went behind an outcropping. When I went around it, I didn't find them. Instead, I found Dexter. He pointed to a hole in the side of the hill and said, "They went in there."
I went inside the hole, which was the end of a narrow tunnel, too small to stand up in. I had to bend over, then crawl, and even slither through the last part. At the other end I found a stone chamber. Part of it was rough, like a cave, but at the other end, where someone had put up floodlamps, there was a squared-off part. The walls here were covered with carved pictures and writing. I couldn't read the writing, but there was one part that I knew I should know, but didn't. I pressed on the inscription, and a door opened in the far wall.
Out of the door came Kaori, then Eudail, then Mimete as a teenager, and the other Witches of Professor Tomoe's cult. Mimete looked frightened. After them came Mistress Nine, who looked at me the way Maia or Dexter did. Dexter had followed me; he asked who these people were. I said, "People we fought long ago, in my last life." I said no more.
None of them spoke. They formed two lines beyond the door, kneeling and bowing. A man came through the doorway, dressed in the dress blues of an American Marine. He had red-blond hair, the same as my father, the same as myself. He had the pale blue eyes of my father. But he was not my father; he had a sharp nose and thin lips, and he was quite tall. Beside him walked something like a dog, but not quite; it had tall pointed ears and a too-long muzzle showing too many teeth.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am the red man, lord of the red lands," he said. "Do you remember nothing of me?"
"No. What about the two boys who came in here?"
"I sent them on. Their time to serve me is not yet."
"To serve you?"
"As your father did. Time grows short, my child. The enemy is much closer than you think." The man's head changed into the head of the dog-creature. His voice changed, sounding like the wind howling in a desert. "Look where you go, my child, my only child. Look, and look again." The dream ended with darkness.
I wanted to talk to Dexter about the dream to find out if he was really in it with me, but I didn't. His mother came with him that day and stayed with him through senior graduation that afternoon. Dex was the Valedictorian, of course, but Evan was the second in the Class of 2011. Third was a beefy jock I'd seen a lot but didn't really pay attention to until that day. Who knew? He surprised me again when he came up to Deja when I was with her and asked her to go to the prom with him. What timing! I sort of helped her answer. Prince Kag let his defenses down for just long enough for me to tell he was relieved. When I asked him who he was going to take now he said, "I don't know. Maybe an older woman." His mind-shield was back up by then.
A few minutes later Evan told me he didn't have a date. It was strictly a prom for seniors that year, at the country club where Henriette's father worked. I told him to go stag or ask someone else because I really didn't feel like going. It was mostly the truth.
I hadn't told anyone about my dream, and I saw the dog-faced man again that night. I was ready to tell someone when I woke up in the dark, but I wasn't sure who. I slipped out just in time to see something that made me forget it. Parapara was standing out on the walkway in just a sheet. She was flexing and preening her wings. When I came up to her and she noticed me, she blushed and giggled.
I went to look for Deja to do some possible damage control, but she wasn't home yet. Then I went back to bed, but couldn't quite fall asleep. Maia woke up and asked me what was wrong. I told her about Kageshirou and Parapara, and wondered what would happen now. I joked about Al and Dex, which made me think about the dream again. I didn't tell her, though.
Maia was quiet for awhile, but then she said, "You still love Evan."
"He's history now."
"But you still love him," she went on. "You're never going to love me like that."
"You can't know that's true."
"Yes, I can," she said. She kissed me. "We're never going to be like Haruka and Michiru."
"I don't know if anyone can," I said. "Maia, I'll do anything for you, you know that."
"Anything you're able to do," she said, "but never that. It just isn't the way you are." She kissed me again, a peck on the cheek. "Tell you what, though, I think you can go down and see if there's any herring. I'm dying for some right now."
I went down to the kitchen, and found it lit up bright. The only person in it was Mimi, reading mangas. "What are you doing up? Where's Lily?"
"She's asleep. I didn't wake her up. I had a bad dream."
"A scary dream?"
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No. I want to forget about it. What are you doing?"
"Looking for some herring."
"It's not there. Your mother found where you hid it."
"Rats," I said, or somesuch. "Where's Mom?"
"She went to the toilet. You're going to sneak out for more herring, aren't you?"
"Sneak out? Me?"
"Take me with you."
"Why should I?" I asked, adding, "That is, if I were going to go out."
"Because you need a guard. All the other Asatara would tell your mother."
Lily had appointed herself my fifth Asatara when she was three; Lily had followed her in this, as she did in nearly everything. "Ok," I caved.
We teleported to New York City, where the sky was beginning to get light but the streetlights were still on. There were few people out, and they were mostly half-asleep, either ending a long night or beginning a long day. No one noticed us materializing.
Mimi had never been to New York, and I showed her the skyline before we went in. Grechky's is only two blocks from the UN Plaza, but you can't actually see the UN building until you are almost in Grechky's. I showed it to her as we entered, me backing through the door. I looked down and saw that she wasn't looking at across the street. She was looking behind me, her eyes wide. I started to spin around—
I was with the man/dog creature. His head became human, and he said to me, "Look, and look again, my child."
I know what happened inside Grechky's because of the surveillance video. The three guys who pulled the job, whatever it was supposed to be, took the tape from the ancient VCR marked "Surveillance" right after they took over the store. What they didn't know was that it hadn't worked for years; Grechky's grandson had put in a modern digital system which uploaded the real video to a computer in their home.
Before we arrived, they came in, rounded everyone up, and put them all in back and tied them up except for one clerk, a woman. Maybe they wanted her to make the place look normal. Then, for about half an hour, they captured everyone who came in and put them in back.
When we came in, the one with the silenced pistol shot me before I finished turning around. Before he could shoot Mimete, she'd transformed and knocked his gun out of his hand with her Witch's staff. The two others brought up their machine guns and Mimete blasted them. While she was doing that, the pistol man pulled out another gun and shot Mimete. The clerk started to run out the back but he shot her. Then he went in back and shot everyone else before he left through the back way.
By then, they tell me, the cameras in the front of the store couldn't see anything for the smoke. Mimete's blasts had started a fire. A delivery man saw the smoke, saw us, and dragged us out.
I haven't seen the video. No one will see it in court, anyway, because of what Mimi did.
The man with the pistols, the man who did all the killing, wasn't arrested for five more days. We, meaning the bishoujo senshi, knew where he was in minutes, thanks to Sailor Earth. We knew who he was the instant Auntie Rei saw his picture. He is Michael Jeffrey Grandville. I never met him before Grechky's, but I knew who he was as soon as Mom told me his name, soon after I woke up in the hospital. Evan was there. Maia wasn't; she'd gone into labor. Before the end of that day, she gave birth to two boys, and she named them Gurio and James, as we had agreed, after our fathers. James has my hair; Gurio is a blond but not dark like Uncle Gurio; he's like Mom, everyone says.
Michael Grandville spent a lot of his life in detention. Officially I don't know about his juvenile record, but unofficially I know he was arrested five times for misdeameanors and two times for felonies before he was tried as an adult. He was convicted of murdering a young mother during a robbery that took place three blocks from where he shot me. Auntie Rei remembered his face, because the woman he murdered was a friend of hers, and my mom, and her senshi: Unazuki Furuhata. Michael Grandville was thirteen when he killed Unazuki. He'd been out on parole for less than three months when I met him.
It's October now. Wonder of wonders, as Auntie Rei the lawyer says, it looks like Michael Grandville's trial will begin next month. For me, it's been longer than for my friends and my family; I spent some time on another line where time was passing more quickly. It was hard, especially leaving the boys behind. I mean my sons; I couldn't take them with me because of the time differential, the very reason I was going. I used the extra time to adjust. I needed it. I think I can handle the trial now, maybe even testifying.
The prosecution won't call me or Mimi. The President got Mom to promise that none of us will "visit" Mr. Grandville. My Asatara, for instance, who would very much like to turn Michael into a set of tableware. But if the defense calls me, that doesn't break the promise, as long as I don't fry him or scramble his brains. I wonder what he really thinks. I wonder what he was doing there. They couldn't just be robbing the place; they could have just left. Robbing more people as they came in doesn't make much sense. He must have been waiting for someone. But it couldn't have been me; I didn't know I was going until a few minutes before I got there.
Most likely, he'll get off. Without me, without Mimi and without the video, there's no one who saw him do it. The two guys with machine guns were his cousins—thirteen and fourteen—but they're dead and you can't be prosecuted for your relatives' crimes in the good old USA. There are rumors they weren't robbing the place, at least with guns. Since their machine guns are half-melted (as are they) I guess the defense could get the jury to believe that.
The trial will be political. The NYPD's relationship with the African American community isn't exactly cozy. It's on the news even on this coast. Evan says he tried to submit a story to the Harvard Crimson and practically got his head bitten off for suggesting that Grandville might be something less than totally innocent.
I needed the extra time.
Prince Kageshirou's encounter with Parapara will have lasting effects no matter what now. Princess Sasami says she is really glad she didn't take a chance last year because Kag sure doesn't shoot blanks. My Asatara not only got her wings; she's going to be a mother.
Deja seems to have forgotten Kag exists for now. The jock with stealth smarts is going to Stanford, one of the few colleges that offers both a great education and the kind of sports teams you can get to the pros from. Stanford, of course, is close enough to visit every weekend even if you don't teleport or fly. She hasn't told him yet, though; that could change things in a hurry.
Mom and her friends kept Johnny Brown and his mom from fines or jail time, but she lost the job Coach had gotten her, and the apartment that went with it. Auntie Naru offered her a job as assistant housekeeper, but she thought that was charity. She decided to move to Chicago, where few people would know about a scandal in high school sports out here. Before they left, Pleione made one more try. She showed him she was one of the "magic girls" he'd been fascinated with since he was a kid. But a real magic girl scared him.
When I talked with Evan about it over the phone, he said he wasn't surprised. "He just wants to be a regular guy, live a normal life."
"I can see that," I told him. "I mean, I can understand how he might feel."
"You didn't read him?"
"I don't read everyone!"
"You couldn't read him, right?"
After a few seconds I admitted it. "I guess we couldn't have much of a normal life. Is that what you want, too?"
"Sometimes," he said.
I can't read minds over the phone, but I could feel someone else was unbalancing our equation.
I began writing this, or dictating, mostly, at first, as sort of an exercise when I was still on my sojourn. I guess I've sped through the parts since Grechky's. I'm still too close to it, even after the extra time. I can't joke about it, yet.
The hardest part of my sojourn, as I've said, was leaving my sons behind. I was only gone a few days for them, but it was months for me. Not that my sojourn wasn't nice, but I won't say anything about it now, except for one thing: I found out a little about my dreams, maybe.
One of the people on that world I talked to was an archeologist. He said that maybe the dog-headed man was an Egyptian god. Maybe Anubis, or maybe Set. When I came back, I learned from Mimete that she had also had dreams about the dog-faced man, including one that sounded much like the first dream. They scare her a lot. She's afraid that . . .
I won't say it. It couldn't be that. Still, I will ask Hotaru, face to face, when I go to visit Evan at Harvard. Dexter too; he's there now.
It's morning. I can feel the sun now; it doesn't come over our hill before ten now and won't until after we change over to standard time, after my birthday.
"Look and look again," says the dog-faced man. But how am I do that? I can't even see the sun now. I can't even see the delights of my eyes, my sons. Michael Grandville put a bullet through both my eyes before I ever saw his face.