"You had unprotected sex?" asked Carmen.
"No, but we broke a condom," explained Ginger Han.
Carmen sighed, and said, "You haven't told him, have you?"
Carmen said, "Good. If you aren't going to have it, he doesn't have to know. If he does know--"
Ginger said, "I've talked to Minako a few times. I know what he'll do if he finds out."
Carmen said, "So do you want me to make an appointment for you?"
Ginger said, "No. Not yet. I haven't decided."
Carmen looked at her friend for awhile before speaking again. "There are so many good reasons not to have it. For you and Mamoru. In case you don't understand, if Mamoru gets booted out of here, that will finish him as a doctor. I've been around long enough to know there are a few people here who don't like him. And don't think you can pass it off as someone else's."
Ginger said, "I know that . . . but if we get married, they won't be able to touch him."
Carmen said, "That's your plan? A shotgun wedding? How romantic!"
Ginger said, "That's not the point. The point is . . . "
Carmen said, "You've decided, haven't you?"
Ginger said, "Yes. I guess."
Carmen said, "Why? It's not like--"
Ginger said, "Like I haven't gotten rid of my little problems before? No, it's not like that. But what if this is my last chance? When have I ever been with a right guy before? And even if he isn't . . . you've seen ZoŽ. Her mother could have been the poster girl for pro-choice; you know the story, don't you? But look at ZoŽ now . . . You've never had to make this choice, Carmy."
Carmen said carefully, "No, I haven't . . . who are you going to tell next? Your parents?"
Ginger said, "No. Usagi and Minako."
Carmen said, "Well, that should be an easy one."
Ginger stage laughed. "Ha. Ha . . . I guess it can wait until Christmas when we stay over. I don't want do do it over the phone."
Carmen said, "Well, that should be jolly. Especially since your parents will be there too. Not to mention Mamoru."
But Ginger wound up telling Ami next, because she was in the hospital a lot and guessed what was going on. Ami didn't want to tell anyone over the phone, either, but of course, she couldn't keep it from her husband, and he couldn't keep it from Umino, and he couldn't keep it from Naru. But Naru could keep her mouth shut.
Of course, Usagi could listen to Naru's thoughts . . .
Usagi's poor decision at the end of summer did not only affect herself. Besides reversing Chibi-Usa's feelings toward the new woman in Mamoru's life, and probably driving Mamoru and Ginger together, it started an arms race and a war between the two biggest gangs in California. Convinced that their rivals must have used heavy weapons to ambush the group sent out to destroy what was supposed to be an independent operation after fair warning was given, the gang that wore blue got rocket launchers and then used them on the gang that wore red. The reds discovered that mortars were even better for making sudden surprise attacks, and remarkably inexpensive and easy to find, once they started shopping overseas.
Another result was that after even most people in Japan stopped believing in Sailor Fighters, plenty of people in the United States started believing, because the other senshi did what they could to stop the gang war. They couldn't stay hidden while they were fighting the gangs. Life became a lot more interesting for the senshi than they wanted. Police were especially interested . . .
But things were quiet in December. The two big gangs were big because they made money on drugs, and a big war was bad for their business. They made another truce.
The first thing the blues and the reds agreed on was that they should get those Sailor girls when they could . . .
To make the season extra-merry, the unions celebrated the merger of the rail and bus services around San Francisco Bay into the GBATA (Greater Bay Area Transit Authority) by going out on strike. This made the beginning of Ginger's holidays very memorable, as she rode with Mamoru, Carmen, and Ami in his tiny old car in the worst traffic jam since the '89 earthquake. As she was puking outside the car for the third time, a motorcycle cop rolled up and started asking her what was wrong, and wouldn't stop. Finally she screamed at the cop, "I'm pregnant!"
That's how Mamoru learned.
At legal limits, one can drive from Palo Alto to Kensington in a little more than an hour--the little township is high up in the Berkeley Hills, and not close to any freeway.
Nearly five hours after setting out, Mamoru's car at last pulled in front of the mansion. It was after eleven. Ginger Han saw that the first persons coming out of the front door to meet them were her parents.
Ginger Han's parents were George Han, a second-generation Chinese-American, and Pamela Fine, who came from one of Boston's oldest and richest Jewish families. They had been married for 42 years when they stepped outside the mansion they'd discovered was where most of their daughter's new friends lived. Ginger was their only child, a surprise to everyone including themselves when she'd come along; they had not been taking heroic measures to have children. If Ginger had come along earlier, she might have inspired a reconciliation with their families.
When George and Pamela married, the only White-Asian marriages that had any kind of popular acceptance were white men with Asian women. The still-remembered images of Fu Manchu or Ming of Mongo lusting over white maidens made the only safe choices for Asian men in the United States Asian women or celibacy. And, for George's parents, it was simply unthinkable that he would not marry a good Chinese girl, preferably the daughter of one of their friends.
Pamela Fine's parents' liberalism and free-thinking had vanished the instant she brought George home. Only one of her old girlfriends had married a gentile, at least the first time, so she had thought she knew what to expect. She had been wrong. After that day, she spoke to her parents only a few times before they died.
By the time Ginger had come along, her only living grandparent was George's mother. She actually moved in with them, but died when Ginger was four. George's father had not spoken to him from the day they were married until his death.
Ginger Han had been blessed with a Chinese name (Mei) and a Hebrew name (Gila) but not with the closest relationship with her parents. Shunned by family, and cut off from connections, they had already built a life and a career together as architects when Ginger came. After her grandmother died, she was raised mostly by nannies, who taught her Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, and working-class Hebrew, depending on which country her parents were working in, or where the nannies had immigrated from. Her last nannies also helped her get her first two abortions without her parents finding out.
"Mom, Dad," Ginger said as they took turns embracing her.
"We thought you'd never get here!" said her mother.
Ginger said, "Well, everyone's late tonight. When did you get in?"
"Our plane landed at four," said her father, "but we didn't get here until eight. We were on the bridge for over two hours."
"Yes . . . This is an interesting situation," said her mother. "Did you know how many would be coming here for the holidays?"
It was more crowded than usual inside. She saw the little man, Dr. Alvarson, far across the great front room, among with some children and some women, including a very tall one with silvery gray hair, with a spray of feathers showing.
Ginger also saw someone pushing Usagi's wheelchair who gave her a double take. Familiar long strawberry-blonde hair, in braids, but a little taller than herself. Then Chibi-Usa came up to her, and said, "Auntie Nancy came, Auntie Ginger." Ginger automatically picked up Chibi-Usa and exchanged cheek-kisses as she went to Usagi and the woman she had heard of but never met, glancing back to see startled looks on the faces of her parents. Well, if you wonder why I like kids so much suddenly . . .
"Well, hello, stranger. I'm Ginger. Have you met my parents yet?"
Nancy Uer said, "Yes, I have. From what I hear, your daughter is the one to thank for keeping my Sis here above the sod."
Ginger said modestly, "Not just me. I helped a little, maybe."
Chibi-Usa said, "Kimi wants a kiss too."
"Well, I'll just have to give her one," said Ginger, setting down Chibi-Usa and picking up Kimberly, a child who seldom spoke first.
Usagi spoke up. "Have you met Mamoru yet, Mr. and Mrs. Han?"
"Mamoro?" asked Ginger's father.
"She means the boy who drove Gin here, dear," explained Ginger's mother. "Is he staying?"
Usagi said, "Yes. It took some shuffling, but I managed to get you a room for just you two. I'm afraid it's in the loft."
"The loft?" said Ginger's mother. "I thought we were staying with Mr. and Mrs. Kumada."
Usagi said, "I meant for Gin-chan and Mamo-chan. Since they are going to be married very soon, I think it is only right."
All Ginger could do for the moment was look back at her parents and shrug helplessly. But whatever ironic humor of the moment was spoiled when Usagi's children kissed and hugged her, and Chibi-Usa said with tears streaming, "I am happy for you, Auntie Ginger."
A small, warm dormer room on a rainy night should have been an ideal place for her Ginger Han's night with the man she wanted more than any other. But she just sat in his arms, saying nothing. Finally she got up and said, "I need to talk to Usagi."
"Will she still be awake?" asked Mamoru.
"Do you really need to ask?" she said, pulling on her robe. "Please, don't come down."
There they were, in the kitchen, much as they had been on the last night Usagi had walked: The little man, Carmen, Usagi, Minako, and Mako. No ice cream; Usagi was doing some embroidery, wearing the glasses she wore more and more since her injury. There were new faces: the gray-haired lady, who did not have the face or body that went with gray hair. She was Dr. Argent Goodman, the Grey Lady of legend, the one who could sometimes raise the dead. And Nancy, of whom she had heard much, the brother of Chibi-Usa's father.
Without looking up from her work, Usagi said, "You cannot sleep?"
Ginger said, "I need to talk to you, Usagi. Alone."
Usagi spoke again without looking. "I trust everyone here."
Ginger said, "Okay, if that's how you want it. But I need to say some things."
Usagi said, "Say them. I am not going anywhere."
Ginger Han poured herself some coffee, more to make a pause than for the caffeine rush. After the obligatory sip, she began. "The one who should be marrying Mamoru is you, Usagi."
"That is not to be. You know why." Usagi continued to sew.
Ginger said, "I know why you think so. But you are wrong. Unless Doctor Alvarson here has a better answer?"
"About this, no," said the little man.
Ginger said, "Then listen to me. I don't apologize for loving Mamoru. I'm going to have this baby. But I'm not going to listen to him say your name in his sleep for the rest of his life. And you won't lay any guilt trips on me. You almost threw away your life because you can't stand living without Mamoru. How is that going to help Chibi Moon break her cycle? The only reason she had a chance last time was because you were there for her."
Usagi finally looked at Ginger. "What could I do now?"
Ginger said, "You can't be sure you won't recover. Not with the kind of magic I've seen here. But even if you never walk again, you are Chibi's mother. If you give up, you teach Chibi to give up. I know you now. Losing your legs doesn't mean anything compared to losing Mamoru. And you are breaking Chibi's heart. I won't help you do that."
"The one thing that is going to make this mess better is for you to marry Mamoru. My advice, for what is worth, is to get some sleep, and get Rei's hubby to drive you to Reno in the morning. You'll be married by tomorrow night. Now, someone find me a blanket. I'm going to crash in on one of the couches. Unless you want me to send Mamoru down. You should sleep together. After all, you are going to be married soon!"
Ginger turned around to make her exit, but found herself looking into Mamoru's chest. That gave her a second's pause, but she sidestepped him and walked out. She found a couch with an afghan, laid down on it, and pulled it over herself. She surprised herself by actually going to sleep, possibly because she had expended her very last reserve of energy making her arguments to Usagi.
Someone was shaking Ginger. "What? What's wrong?" She opened her eyes. It was still dark, and she felt sick. Trying to control her gorge, she sat up.
It was Usagi. "Get some warm clothes on."
Ginger pleaded, "Now? It's still dark."
Usagi insisted, "Yes, that is why you have to hurry. Do it."
Her gorge forgotten, Ginger jumped to get the warmest outfit she'd brought. When she scrambled back down, beginning to wonder what was going on, the first thing she saw was Hotaru kissing Shingo—she was dressed in a skirted leotard, and holding a bladed something on a pole more than twice her height.
"Come one, come on!" It was Usagi, with Naru behind her wheelchair; they were both dressed warmly as well.
Ginger came down to them. "Where are we going?"
"To take your advice," said Usagi.
"My parents--" Ginger started to say.
The lights came on in the front room. Hotaru was there, along with others similarly dressed. Minako had her wings--and Nancy, and two more Ginger didn't really know yet. They were forming a circle.
"We must be in the center," said Usagi. "Come, come." Naru pushed Usagi into the center of the circle. There were more strangers there, women she had not seen before at all, even in the short span before she had tried to spend the night with Mamoru.
"Do you have enough?" said the little man, with a laugh behind his voice that Ginger could not mistake even at this moment.
"I will help!" called a child. Chibi-Usa ran to the tiny gap in the circle between Hotaru and Setsuna. "See, okasan? I can do it now!" And Chibi-Usa transformed . . .
. . . into a tiny Death Angel.
A moment later, they were elsewhere.