Ginger answered, "Tea is fine, for now . . . thank you."
The Tsukinos spoke with each other, in English for the most part--they were obviously being polite. But Ginger could follow enough of their Japanese to know they weren't trying to hide anything from her. They spoke as any long-married couple would speak. The gardening service was going to spray, so children would have to be kept from playing in the yard for a few days. Maybe a week, to be safer. The tires on the blue van were getting worn; they should be replaced, especially the front ones.
Ginger drank most of her tea before she spoke. "Excuse me, but I just saw your daughter grow wings. This happens all the time?"
Mrs. Tsukino said, "We would rather not discuss Usagi's special affairs without her. More tea?"
The 'exercises' were led by Rei Hino's grandfather, a hairless old gentlemen of uncertain age and a lecherous eye. There were no stylized shouts. Most of the participants turned out in martial-arts uniforms, including Mamoru and including some children. Usagi and Minako turned out in leotards and tights, and they were both late starters. Naru and a girl Ginger did not remember also wore Leotards--as did Carmen--but they started on time.
Ginger watched most of it sitting on one of the couches or chairs that had been moved to the back wall of the enormous front room. It looked pretty harmless to her, especially when the old man and the mothers and Rei's husband took the children aside for more instruction. Meanwhile, the others brought out a heavy, padded mat and unrolled it. Ginger helped with that, and then went to watch the children. She stood by Mamoru, who acknowledged her, but reserved most of his attention for the children, especially Usagi's and Minako's. That did not surprise Ginger, since Kimberly and Ishtar were his children as well. It did not surprise her that Usagi's older child, Sarah, did everything to please Mamoru, or continue to give Ginger hostile looks, especially when Mamoru spoke with Ginger. But she was surprised at how good the children were--not just them, but Rei's child, Deja, and Naru's two oldest, Pleione and Maia.
Then that part of the exercises ended. Ginger had thought that this would be the last of it, but, instead, the old man began designating pairs to spar on the mat. This provided more revelations. The sparring looked little short of actual combat. Naru was excused--"pregnant again," was her short answer to Ginger's question. Shingo's match with Hotaru ended with his loss--but not with his bloody nose; he went on after that. Yuuichirou, Rei's easygoing, immensely likable husband, was relentless in sparring; he won all but two of his matches, including one against Rei; he lost only to Haruka and to Minako. Usagi lost most of hers, even to gentle Ami, but she did not give up in any of them; each time the old man had to end it. The final bout was between Haruka and Minako, and it was frightening in its intensity. The old man ended the bout without a winner.
Then they put the mat away, and moved the furniture and rugs back into place. And Rei's grandfather transformed back from the stern dojo-master to the avuncular lech of the evening before. He was joined by Dr. Alvarson, and together they seemed intent on not missing a moment when Ginger's bosoms might spill out from her robe and pajamas. Ginger decided it was time to dress for the day, before the big breakfast.
After her shower--and the long wait for it--Ginger returned to her room and found Carmen waiting, half-dressed, sitting up in her bed. "Do you believe me now, Ginny?"
Ginger did not waste time answering.
Finding that Mamoru was spending the rest of the day with his children, and the other children, for that matter, Ginger did not pursue him. She explored the house and the grounds. The basement held a maze of computer equipment where Naru's and Ami's husbands toiled away with some others. Dr. Alvarson remarked that they were all very rich now, though they had made him and his company richer. A lot of their work looked like play, but Ginger could not understand much of it.
The mansion had an attic with dormer-rooms, now used by the children. There was also another floor on the back side of the mansion, between the ground floor and the level of the bedrooms and guest rooms. Dr. Alvarson explained, "This is where servants who were not white had to live, when this place was first built."
"No one would want to live here if they could help it." The ceilings were low, with protruding girders--the house looked like it was made of brick, but that was just a facing over steel and concrete. This partial floor seemed almost like a prison.
"We use most of it for storage," explained Mr. Tsukino, "I thought of moving one of the big televisions up from the basement so the children could have somewhere to watch together without getting in the way, but that would mean taking out most of the partitions here."
"It wouldn't harm the integrity of the building," said Ginger. "But, of course, that is Dr. Alvarson's decision to make. If you turn this into an entertainment center, it would considerably improve the resale value--my mother put a theater into a yacht once, in a space about as awkward as this."
"That is always a consideration, Ms. Han," said the little man, not leering for a change.
"Really? Would I have to move my darkroom here?" Mr. Tsukino took out a key and was about to put it in a padlock--then he noticed the hasp was open. He turned back to Ginger and little Dr. Alvarson and put his finger to his lips. Then he closed the hasp and locked the padlock, saying loudly "Oh, look what I did! I left it open the last time! Good thing I caught it before any children got inside!"
In a moment, there was pounding from the other side of the door. Mr. Tsukino unlocked the door and opened it. Shingo emerged, his nose no longer bloody but his face quite red all the same. After him came Hotaru.
Mr. Tsukino said, "We will talk about this later. May I have the key?"
Ginger noticed that Mr. Tsukino was surprised when Hotaru handed the other key to him. He shook his head as the young couple left. "Ne-e-eh, like Usako with Mamoru, I am afraid." he muttered.
Dr. Alvarson spoke up. "He is sensible, and so is she. And they are young."
Mr. Tsukino said, "Yes, they are young. That is what worries me so much."
Alvarson said, "They care for each other."
"That does not mean they will not get into trouble. Maybe they already have." Mr. Tsukino disappeared into his darkroom, and then emerged holding something in his hand.
Ginger took it from him. "I'll give this back to her."
It was a bra.
Carmen asked Ginger, "So, what did you tell her when you gave it back? I noticed you were talking for a long time."
It was late, and they were in their beds, talking in the dark.
Ginger said, "I sort of turned into my mom. I told her that she shouldn't rush into this. And I told her I wished I hadn't started having sex so early."
Carmen said, "What did Hotaru tell you? I mean, if you think it's all right to tell."
Ginger said, "Well . . . She said she was really sort of glad Shingo's father caught them when he did. She didn't think she was going to go as far as she did. And she said that Shingo is really scared he's going to lose her now . . . his father said he was afraid they were just like 'Usako and Mamoru.' I told her that, and she started to cry. She said that she was sure Shingo was the one she would love forever, but that she was afraid they would not be able to be together, like Usagi and Mamoru."
Carmen asked, "Did she tell you why Usagi won't get together with Mamoru?"
Ginger said, "No. I didn't ask, though . . . "
Carmen said, "So they didn't actually--"
Ginger said, No. "Close . . . They've been in that darkroom before, but Hotaru felt bad about hurting Shingo this morning. I guess she . . . overcompensated?" She sighed. "Raging hormones."
"How are yours?" asked Carmen.
"Old and dried up," replied Ginger Han.
Carmen said, "Not that old . . . you haven't done the deed with Mamoru yet, have you?"
"Well, he's still here."
"You're not serious!" exclaimed Ginger.
Carmen said, "When are you going to have another opportunity? Monday he's an intern and you're a second-year resident. He may not stay tomorrow night."
After awhile, Ginger Han crept from her room. She knew where Mamoru should be sleeping; Carmen's suggestion had not fallen on her from a clear sky.
But as she approached, moonlight revealed someone else by the door she was approaching. Though her hair hung loose, Ginger did not mistake the person looking through the half-opened door. It was Usagi.
Ginger continued approaching after a pause, seeing that Usagi was not responding to her presence. When she was only a few feet away, Ginger could see silvery tracks glittering on Usagi's cheek.
"What's wrong?" Ginger whispered.
Usagi glanced at her, then pushed the door open a little more. Ginger peered in, and saw Mamoru lying in bed asleep. He had plenty of company: three little heads peeked out from under the same covers, two of his daughters and Sarah, Usagi's older girl, the one that had asked if her mother was going to turn Ginger into dust just that morning . . .
Ginger watched for quite awhile before she felt a presence behind her. She was not surprised at all that it was Minako.