|A Year and Change|
What particularly fascinated her was biomechanics and bioelectronics. Maybe it was her old fascination with dolls that lead her to it. She wanted to build machines that could reproduce human or animal behavior better than had been done before--and perhaps provide prosthetic devices that were as good or even better that the limbs they had replaced. Mika remembered her grandfather and two great uncles, men who had been maimed in the Pacific War. When Mika pictured them trying to get along with their clumsy artifical limbs, she wondered why there wasn't anything better.
For all the promises--the famous "Boston Arm" of the Seventies, and the like--nothing much had really changed since then. In fact, the Boston Arm program was abandoned before Mika was even born.
Her researches in high school had uncovered only one researcher who had seemed to be going beyond that failed program, an obscure man named Professor Tomoe Souichi. But after a laboratory explosion, he had withdrawn from the field, and started a special school that was rumored to be the headquarters of a cult. Another explosion, and fires from it, had destroyed most of that school, and it had been closed afterward.
Mika had assumed that was the end of Professor Tomoe. However, one night, with a lot on her mind, and her new American study partner fast asleep, she decided to take another look. She decided to look for the professor's obituary--perhaps he was alive.
But he wasn't, it turned out. Tomoe had been dead for a long time, for ten years, though he had lived for almost two years since his special school had closed. The obituary mentioned very little about his work, but it did give Mika a fact she had not suspected before: Professor Tomoe was survived by one child, a daughter, Hotaru.
<Hotaru,> Mika thought. Another irony. The same name as Shingo's wife.
The sensible girl woke her study mate and told her it was time for her to go back to her room. Once Rachel was gone, Mika went to bed herself. But it took her a long time to get to sleep. She thought about Shingo's Hotaru, who had faced the decision Mika was facing now. But not quite the same decision, because Shingo had not had a wife and a child then.
When Mika asked for a meeting at a quiet place off-campus, Shingo took her to a cafe on the Boston side of the Charles, explaining that they had wonderful tarts. He was right. "How did you ever find this place?" asked Mika, finishing her second, feeling far removed from care, for just the moment.
Shingo said, "Hotaru suggested I look for it. She remembers it from when she was very small. Her mother and father brought her here. I was surprised to find it still here."
"Yes. There have been many changes." Mika was brought back to the reason she had come to this place. Why did he chose a place that is special to Hotaru? "Change is not always good, is it?"
"No, Mika-chan, I suppose it is not." He took a last contemplative sip of his coffee, and said, "There has surely been a big change between us. Is that why we are here?"
"Yes, Shingo-chan." Mika looked back over her shoulder. They had taken a table outside, the only ones to brave the cool evening. She saw the campus of MIT across the river, a boat moving up the Charles, and a car stopped just across the street. She noticed the driver was looking at her. The car moved on, and she put it from her mind. "I am pregnant."
"Pregnant? Are you sure?"
"Yes." She turned back to Shingo, and saw that he had bowed his head, and closed his eyes. "Aren't you going to ask if I am going to have the baby?"
"No," he said, without looking up. "I know you. If you weren't sure you were not going to have it, you would not have told me."
Mika reached across the tiny table to take Shingo's hands. "It is not your fault. You slipped once. Just once."
Shingo looked up at her. "We made love only once for real, but I have made love to you many times in my mind." He shook his head. "I cannot go on like this. You are the one I love."
Mika drew back. "Shingo! You love Hotaru, and she is your wife!"
"But I love you, Mika. I think I always have . . . "
Perhaps because Shingo was beginning to lose control, Mika clamped down on her own turbulant emotions. "Shingo, you love Hotaru. I have seen you together. You cannot tell me that you do not love her."
"Yes. But I love you . . . If you are going to have my child anyway, then--"
Mika did not let him finish. "Then I am going to have your child, and we will explain it to our families. But not now, Shingo-chan." She rose, and kissed him on his brow. "I hope Hotaru will forgive me. But I would not forgive myself if I let you do something even more foolish now."
Then Mika found herself running from the cafe before Shingo could follow and somehow thwart her resolve again. And that is when she noticed that the strange car, with the strange man, was pulling in ahead . . .
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