HARUKA WISHED she had her motorcycle. Everyone seemed to have a question for her, except Michiru. She wanted to just ride, alone, for hours, at night. To lose herself in the wind and the feel of the road under her wheels. To get ahead of herself, if only for a little while.
Most especially, she wanted to escape Usagi. From the second she'd looked into Usagi's eyes, she knew something had changed--everything had changed.
On the face of it, Usagi had done exactly as Haruka might have expected. She'd drifted into an affair, ruined her relationship with Mamoru--what did he see in her?--and now everyone else was doing everything to help her out of her mess. Poor Usagi, she just never seems to get it right, for very long.
But that was not what Haruka had found. Usagi was now as steely as Haruka pretended to be. Haruka looked at her, and saw a queen. And yet she did not not want to be a queen. The only thing consistent with the Usagi she had known was that she was inconsistent.
And what was that new girl to Usagi? Haruka had found out the mundane facts about the other guests right away, while Rei didn't seem to know until the end of their first week. The woman was named Ms. Ferrara. The new girl who was around Usagi the most was Nancy, her daughter by her first husband. Ms. Ferrara's son, Nancy's brother--the guy in the picture Haruka had noticed Rei pick up--he would be the father of Usagi's baby. But he was dead, in a plane crash.
The colored girls and the boy were Ms. Leary's stepchildren; her current husband, a Mr. Ferrara, was their father. She also had a baby boy of her own and a four-year-old girl, both by her current husband. Haruka had a rare moment of laughter when she found that Rei had assumed that the colored children were servants--she watched Ms. Leary tear into Rei for twenty minutes. Haruka actually admired Rei in many ways, but she thought that Rei needed to be brought down to earth frequently, and that she especially needed to learn to watch and listen more before opening up her big mouth.
Nancy and all the older Ferrara children would go through some martial-arts type exercises every day but Sunday--Shingo joined them, usually, and Minako began joining in after a few days. Haruka found that she always watched them. It looked more like exercise than real training--except for Nancy, and sometimes Felicia, the oldest. Felicia looked like she could fight, and Nancy looked like she could fight well. Possibly as well as Minako, and that was saying quite a lot.
None of that for Haruka, of course. Every doctor she'd seen had advised her first to consider an abortion. Once they were past that, they all said she was far from an ideal candidate for motherhood, and that if she wanted to carry to full term, she would have to change her lifestyle. Martial arts were out.
Why was she going through with it?
Haruka couldn't explain it to Michiru--not that she would listen, now.
Haruka had thought she would talk to Usagi about it--but the Usagi she had come to see wasn't here.
Haruka decided to take another walk, to get out of the house and away from everyone for awhile. As she opened the door, she heard a voice call out behind her. "You should wear a warmer coat."
It was Michiru. She handed Haruka a heavy jacket, with a hood, and then walked away, past Usagi and Nancy, saying nothing more.
Usagi had something to say. "Haruka, are you going to be gone long?"
"I do not know," said Haruka.
Usagi said, "It will be dark in less than an hour. A man has raped several women this month. And there are always people who will rob you here."
Haruka tried to brush off Usagi's concerns. "I will take care of myself. Don't--"
Usagi cut her off with what was clearly an order. "Nancy, please go with her. Get Tenou-san back by dinnertime."
Michiru watched Haruka walk away with Nancy from an upstairs window until they were out of sight. As she headed for her room, she noticed that the door to the room Nancy shared with oldest stepsister was open. After a moment to think about it, she went inside.
There were two dressers, and it took Michiru a moment to figure whose was whose. What first caught her eye was a garland of tiny paper cranes hanging over the mirror of one dresser. She remembered seeing Nancy wear it as a necklace when she had gone out with her stepsisters to do something together.
There was also a colored drawing on the dresser, in a glass frame. It was done in pastels. It didn't approach the quality of her own work, but it was good work for an amateur . . . Michiru picked it up. It showed a young man in a military uniform waving. Behind him was a crowd of people, and behind them, and at the end of the windowed corridor he was inside, there was an airplane. It was an effective composition: it conveyed a particular moment, a parting, a farewell . . . a final farewell . . . and it was signed by Usagi.
"Don't fool with that," said a voice from behind.
Michiru turned, and saw that it was Felicia, Nancy's oldest stepsister. She wondered again why Nancy would share a room with her oldest stepsister, rather than the youngest.
"Put it down," said the tall, powerful-looking girl. "And could you tell me why you're in here? I don't seem to remember inviting you."
Michiru refused to show alarm. "I did not know Usagi was still doing art. If she studied, she could be quite good."
"I don't care about that. Sue made that for Nancy. Nancy would kick your ass if she saw you fooling with it, and don't be so sure I won't! What are you doing in here?"
Michiru set the picture down. "I wanted to know more about your sister. Nancy."
"Well, here's an idea: try talking to her. You--"
Michiru cut Felicia off. "Where did she get those cranes?"
Felicia, who was even taller than Haruka, was not as sure of herself, at least at that moment. Instead of continuing her verbal assault, she responded to Michiru's question. "Sarah made that for her. For her birthday."
Michiru asked, "Who is Sarah? And you said Sue made that drawing? Usagi signed it."
Felicia explained, "Sue is what we called her when she stayed with us. And Sarah is what we called her little sister."
"Sarah?" <Little sister?>
"Yes, Sarah. I guess you would know here as . . . uh . . . kibi? No, chibi. Chibisa. I think that's her Japanese name."
"Yes, I think so," said Felicia. "But she was Sarah to us. Even Sue called her Sarah all the time. Kimberly was the only one who used . . ."
Michiru was impatient enough to show it. "What about Chibi-Usa? Usagi will not tell us something about her."
Felicia drew herself up. "If Sue hasn't told you, I won't. Besides, I don't know it all . . . Nancy does, and maybe my stepmom. But they won't tell you, either. If Sue won't tell you, we won't. So, why don't you get out of here? Why don't you go after your girlfriend? Oh, whatsa matter, you don't want me snooping into your private business? Or do you want to try to whip my ass? You probably can, but I'll mark up that perfect face of yours some. Come on. Wanna dance?" The girl got into a stance.
"I prefer waltzes," Michiru replied, and walked out of the room.
Haruka would have like to outdistance Nancy, which she should have been able to do, but she had made a prior commitment: she wouldn't overstrain herself, and risk losing her baby. Her baby. "You are mine, not his," she said to the new life within herself.
"What?" asked Nancy, a few steps behind her, as she had remained since they started out.
"Nothing," said Haruka.
"No, I heard you. You said something belonged to you, not 'him.'" The girl drew up alongside her. "Whatcha mean? Thinking about the guy?"
Haruka had to smile. "Yes. I did not know you understood Japanese."
Nancy said, "Enough to pick up on that . . . Was it a big romance? Or did you just get drunk or something?"
"It was . . . a mistake," Haruka said at length.
"Want to tell Auntie Nancy? I can keep a secret."
Haruka asked, "Why should I tell you? And why do you want to know?"
Nancy replied, "I don't know, and I don't know. But it's cold and dark and you can't just keep this inside of you. So tell me what's going on and we can go back to the house and get warm. And eat. I skipped lunch and I'm starving."
"Those are good reasons. We will go back to the house."
"And the guy?" asked Nancy after they had taken a few steps on the return journey.
Haruka said, "He is a musician, like Michiru. I took some lessons from him. He is really quite famous. I did not know how famous until later. I also did not know he had a wife and many children until later."
"Fancy he forgot to mention that. How many children with his wife?"
"Five. How many more--at least one, in four months, if I can carry my daughter to term."
Nancy grew serious. "This is really important to you, isn't it?"
Haruka walked on in silence for several paces. "I have dropped my college courses. I have spent a lot of my savings on doctors. I have probably lost Michiru forever. Yes, I would say my child is important to me."
After a few more paces, Nancy said, "The guy--Is he going to give you any support?"
Haruka said, "I will not ask for it." She could have said a great deal more, but didn't.
When they came to a little overlook with a stone bench, Haruka stopped and sat down. Nancy asked, "Are you okay? Should I get a cab?
Haruka leaned back, easing the strain on her back for a moment. "No. Nothing is wrong. I just want to stop for awhile . . . and I want to know, how do you know so much about this? Do you have any children?"
"No. I just pay attention to people who do, now. And, believe it or not, I'm still a virgin!"
"Would that I could say the same," said Haruka, using a line from a poem in English she had burned a few weeks before. She got up. "I think I can walk the rest of the way. But--how were you going to call a cab?"
Nancy produced a cellphone. "My mom never lets me leave home without it."
Haruka thought a moment "Call the taxi." Haruka sat down again.
Nancy began punching in numbers. "I'm calling my mom . . . probably faster than getting a cab, anyway."
"You are right, I suppose."
"Do you need a doctor?"
Like Usagi, this Nancy seemed to be overprotective. Haruka assured her, "No. I'm just tired . . . I should be careful."
Nancy made the call. When she was finished, she said, "Five, ten minutes, unless they have trouble finding us." She then took off her coat and put it over Haruka's legs. "Jeans aren't as good as panty hose in this weather."
"No, put your coat back on!" This was really too much.
"Shut up and just sit there, oh high-and-mighty Sailor Uranus! For once." The girl tied the coat sleeves under Haruka to keep the coat snug.
Haruka was speechless. The girl, shivering in her short skirt and sleeveless top, knew who she was.
Haruka's shock was so great that her combat instincts were suppressed for a few seconds. But after those few seconds, she fixed again on something she'd noticed while all this was going on. A car that had gone past them just after Nancy had taken off her coat, was now approaching them again, slowly, very slowly. She glanced back at Nancy and saw that Nancy was reading her face. Nancy turned around. "Oh, sh--" Nancy started to say.
"Nancy, get out of here!" She pulled Nancy's coat from her legs, and started to get up.
"No, wait--don't transform. You don't know what it will do to the baby." Nancy turned back to her, and handed her the cellphone. "Hide it. Hide yourself. I'll draw him off. Call the police when he can't see you--screw that. Call the house! My mom knows the score." And then Nancy skipped out into the middle of the street and made a very interesting gesture at the car. It rocketed forward. Haruka saw Nancy spring away. She jumped off the road just as the car was about to strike her. Haruka wanted to blast the man--but remembered what Nancy had said. She faded back into some brush and began to work the phone. The car turned off the winding road they had been walking beside, and peeled off loudly downhill.
The phone stopped working after a few moments, but Haruka did talk to Ikuko and then Mako long enough to tell them there was trouble. Then Haruka waited for several minutes. She was starting to go back to the street to get a better look when she heard Nancy's voice calling her, "No, stay down! He's coming back!" Haruka had no idea where the voice was coming from, but she let herself slide down a few meters, and made sure her hood covered her orange blonde hair. She could just make out a car slowing up, and then idling, only a few meters away. She fingered her henshin wand, and considered, but waited.
Then a door began to open. A boot hit the pavement, then another. Haruka prepared to get up, but slipped, and slid down the slope for a more few meters--making quite a rumbling noise. And she lost her henshin.
Haruka looked up and saw a man standing on the edge of the road above her. He was outlined by lights from behind him. He had something in his hands--a rifle, or a shotgun.
But then the menacing silhouette stepped back, out of sight. Haruka heard the car door slam, and the squeal of tires. Then she felt hands on her.
"It's okay. He's gone." It was Nancy, helping her up. "Careful . . ."
Haruka heard someone scrambling down. Then another pair of hands grabbed her. In a moment, she was up the slope back onto the walkway. In another moment, she was being helped into a van, and she saw that the second pair of hands belonged to Michiru. Michiru started moving away, but Haruka grabbed her hands and said, "Please, sit with me?"
Michiru paused, and then sat down beside Haruka.
Nancy got in next. She paused to slap some of the dirt of her coat. Haruka noticed that she was just wearing a brassiere under her coat--her top was gone. Before she could ask, she heard Nancy say, "Here, keep this for her until you think you can trust her with it." Nancy handed Haruka's henshin to Michiru, and then moved back to another seat.
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