|A Year and Change|
|A Prodigal Father|
And then she stopped. There was someone in her kitchen, a stranger. He was an older man, not menacing-looking in any way, but a stranger, alone in her kitchen, perhaps even alone in her house, because she had not found anyone else at home yet. Deja asked, "Who are you? One of Mom's clients?" Sometimes her mother brought one of her law clients home. It was unlikely he was a martial arts student of her father.
He spoke in Japanese. "You are already becoming a young woman?"
Deja asked again, this time in Japanese. "Who are you? Why are you here? I don't know you." She found her hand was on her watch, ready to press the studs that would summon help--Chibi Moon, almost instantly. The old man still did not seem much of a threat, but . . .
Deja started. Hands were on her shoulders.
"He has a right to be here," said her mother, in English.
Deja took her hand away from her watch slowly. "Okasan, who is he?"
"He is my father, Deja-chan. He is your grandfather."
The man opened his arms and smiled broadly. Deja went to him and accepted his embrace, trying not to blurt out the many questions suddenly in her mind. He released the girl and said, "You are a fine girl. You must be breaking hearts already, Deja-chan."
"Maybe I have broken a few hearts," replied Deja.
"Deja-chan is an excellent student," said her mother. "She is one year ahead of her age group."
Deja blushed. "Yes, Grandfather . . . I must do schoolwork now." She retreated from the kitchen and the grandfather her mother never spoke of.
Hino Saburo kept his smile as the child retreated from him. <She knows little or nothing about me,> he thought. That did not surprise him. When the child was gone, he turned to his daughter. "She is much older than I imagined."
His daughter said nothing for a moment. She refilled his teacup and replaced the kettle before speaking again, without turning back to face him. "Yes, she is a love-child, if that is what you mean. But she is Yuuichirou's, if that is what you were going to ask next."
"You are blunt as ever, Rei-chan." He took a leisurely sip, stretching out the moment before making his next point. "She is a fine child. More polite than her mother."
He saw his daughter's shoulders suddenly tighten, then loosen, slowly. She turned to face him. "My husband will be home soon. Let us settle our business before then, please?"
"Business? What business do I have here? I have not seen you for years. Is it so hard to believe that I just want to visit my family?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Tell me the truth."
He took another long "sip," really just wetting his lips, without taking his eyes off her. "I am to accompany our Ambassador to a White House performance. Michiru is performing with that Frenchman. I have discovered you will be present." He took a genuine drink. "It would be well if we were not discovered to be strangers there."
Rei regarded him for a moment, then sat down across the table from him. "I don't have my official invitation yet."
He said, "But you are not surprised . . . You are going, aren't you?"
Rei said, "Yes. It is a great honor for Keiou-san. Of course I will go . . . I must."
The veteran politician regarded his daughter. She seemed distant, in an unexpected way. He said, "It is a great honor for you, also." Taking another sip, he wondered what she was thinking. But she didn't seem to be angry with him now, so he put that question aside. Instead, he set his cup down and made a show of looking about. "This is a wonderful home. How did you get it? I understand real estate here is almost as bad as in Tokyo."
His daughter answered, still without quite looking at him. "It is not as bad as Tokyo, but it is for America. The woman who lived here passed away. My friend Aino-san the nurse cared for her earlier and became friends with her family. Her daughter wants to return here to live when she can, but now she works somewhere in Texas. So, she rents this place to us." She paused for a moment, seeming to grow a little more distant. "I suppose we should buy a home. Yuuichirou can afford it."
"You lived with your friends for a long time, I understand. Why did you decide to move out?"
Now his daughter seemed to return to the scene. She looked at him, making real eye contact, and actually smiled slightly. "I was arguing with the housekeeper all the time."
Deja did not find any strangers sitting with Sarah at lunch. But perhaps Sarah was more than enough. "What is it with you today? I heard from Val you fell asleep."
Deja was caught in the middle of a yawn by that, and she flushed with embarrassment. "I got hardly any sleep. I had to finish my paper."
"You tried to do it all at the last minute? What are you doing, picking up my bad habits?"
Deja shook her head. "I didn't have that much left to do, but I couldn't concentrate. I kept thinking about Grandfather Hino."
Sarah shrugged as she munched. "Why should he bother you so much?"
"I don't know . . . he is a stranger to me, Chibi-usa."
Sarah frowned; she did not like being called that by Deja. But she said nothing about it. Instead, after swallowing her next mouthful, she leaned over and whispered, "Do you think he has some secret? Do you want me to--"
"No, don't do that, please."
Sarah straightened up. "Okay, I won't . . . Hey, can I have part of that pickle?"
Hino Saburo watched his son-in-law make a showy yawn and listened to him say, "I'm for bed now."
His daughter glanced up from the book she was reading and said, "I'm going to stay up awhile." Her husband was already standing by her. He bent down to kiss her, and then left the room. Just as he exited, he glanced back for an instant, and Saburo saw something more complicated in his expression than he had seen.
When Saburo was sure that they were alone, he said, "He could make a good politician."
Rei closed her book and responded with some irritation, "Why would you say that? He is not like you."
He shifted so that his body more nearly faced his daughter's. "He knows how to talk around things. And he knows how to make a compromise." He smiled. "I saw him patch up a quarrel between that housekeeper you cannot abide and your friend Mrs. Urawa today. It was masterful. He got both of them mad at him, and they forgot they were mad at one another . . . I am sure that is what he intended to do."
Rei's irritation subsided somewhat. "There is more to my Yuuichirou than you think."
"I never doubted that. You expect a lot from a man."
His daughter nodded in a very American way, disturbing him slightly. Then, tapping on her book, she said, "I really need to read more of this, Father. I have a hearing in the morning."
"Will that really help? More than sleep?" He gathered up the Japanese papers he had been reading and started to get up.
Then Rei surprised him, by saying, "I think you are right." She sighed. Then she said, "Are you really interested? You haven't asked much about my work."
Hino Saburo settled back. "I'm ready to listen now."
As Rei began to talk, her father sensed she was looking a little past him. "It is a deportation hearing."
"Your client has committed some crime?"
Rei shook her head, again, in a way that showed she had picked up more American ways than he cared for. "Mr. Chu entered this country illegally and has worked without the proper permits, but that is all."
"That does not sound so bad."
Rei's focus clearly was on himself now, not peering past him to the hearing. "Our country is not so very welcoming of other people."
"Perhaps, but we are small and very crowded. America is not." He paused for a moment. "Or do I misunderstand? Do you mean 'America' when you say 'our country?'"
Rei smiled wryly. "You are sharp, Father. I meant Japan just now. But I am quite an American now. Perhaps I should change my citizenship." Her focus changed again, but it was not the same as before. "Deja certainly is American. She is more Japanese in her ways than any of her friends, the children of my old friends from Japan. But she will never be anything but an American. She could live in Japan for the rest of her life, but that would not change." She looked away, ostensibly to set down her book. "I have brought her with me to Japan several times. No one mistakes her for a Japanese."
A silence intervened. Before it went on too long, Hino Saburo said, "I suppose I could have visited you, also." He rose, and began to make his way to bed.
But Rei called out from behind him. "Do you want to come to the hearing tomorrow?"
He stopped for a moment. "Yes. I will come with you." He took another step, but then stopped and turned to face his daughter. "Could you answer a question, before I go?"
"You may ask."
"Since I have heard that you named your new child after your husband's mother, I wondered why you did not name Deja-chan after your mother."
Rei took a moment to answer, or perhaps to decide to answer. "I don't know."
He regarded her for a moment, seeing how much she looked like her mother, before the final illness. He began once again to leave, but paused again, and asked, "Why did you choose the name Deja? I have never heard of such a name."
After a moment, Rei smiled oddly, and said, "Some day I will tell you. But not now."
He took a longer time to get to sleep that night because of that odd smile. For some reason, it seemed important. At first he thought it was one of his intuitions, a gift of that sense which had generally served him so well in a long, slippery career. But, in the end, he decided it must just be the discomfort of having Rei pushing him off-balance. His intuition had not served him well enough for some time.
He finally passed into sleep mulling over one of the dirtier details of his career.
Rei was not able to save her client; Mr. Chu was to be deported, along with most of the others processed that Friday.
Usually, when she had business in San Francisco, Rei took a train to downtown and caught a cab. But because the hearing was supposed to be quite early, she had picked up Mr. Chu in her car and braved the morning commute to be sure he was not late. As it turned out, his hearing did not actually come up until well after the lunch break. Perhaps it would have gone better if Mr. Chu had had his hearing in the morning, when cases were not being rushed through as frantically.
When making her last farewell with Mr. Chu, who would be flown back to China after a night's detention, Rei lost track of her father. She had to call in the building security officers to find him. They did, after a long delay.
By the time Rei eased onto the lower span of the Bay Bridge, bound for home, San Francisco was well within the accustomed torture of the afternoon commute. Her father said nothing during the whole ordeal. Rei was sorely tempted to lash out, to fill the silence with things she had wanted to shout at her father for nearly two decades. But he was her father . . . and he hadn't asked her any more questions about when and where Deja had been born. If she allowed him to know the truth about that, more than her own life could unravel . . .
Yuuichirou asked Rei, "What are you doing?"
"Getting dressed. I'm going over to Usagi's." She paused to go to him and give him a comforting kiss. "Go back to sleep. I may be gone for a long while."
"What is it? A mission?"
"No," she said, gently pushing him down onto the bed. "I just need to talk with Usagi."
Yuuichirou asked, "Can't you wait until tomorrow?"
"I could, but I won't . . . unless Usagi isn't up. Then I'll come right back. Please, be quiet. I don't want to wake up the children. Or my father."
To Rei's relief, the lights were on in the back. But instead of Usagi's voice, or even Olivia's, Michiru answered. Rei went directly to the point. "I want to visit Usagi, if she is still awake."
"She is . . . Come in. There is something I want to talk with you about."
Hino Saburo had heard the front door open and close, and recognized his daughter's footsteps down the walk. But he didn't get up until the baby started crying, and he heard his son-in-law moving about. After a decent delay, he went downstairs, where he found Yuuichirou trying to tend to the baby. The baby was taking its bottle, but it was still unhappy, still making little grunts of protest, very much like another baby girl . . . who wasn't here to tend to her daughter. "I think she wants her okasan. Where is Rei-chan?" he asked of his son-in-law.
Yuuichirou said, "She went over to see Mrs. Chiba."
"Mrs. Chiba? At this hour? Whatever for?"
His son-in-law said, "Maybe to talk over losing her case today. Mrs. Chiba is her oldest friend. They were friends when I met your daughter." He began a long yarn about how he had first met Rei at the temple her mother's father ran, and how he had started studying the martial arts under the strange old man. By now, Hino-san knew that his son-in-law could stretch out such a tale for hours if he needed to. He also knew that Yuuichirou was trying to distract him. But the baby began to fuss worse and worse until finally, when Yuuichirou stopped his tale altogether to try to comfort the child.
Hino would have taken that opportunity to inject his own comment, but Deja appeared. It would not do to criticize Rei in front of Deja, so he held his tongue and observed. He watched and listened while Deja took the baby, which responded, though it was still not entirely satisfied.
Still, the baby was quiet enough for Yuuichirou to start his interminiable story again. He was still telling it over an hour later, when Rei finally returned. The baby at last fell into a satisfied sleep after a few minutes in the arms of its mother, and everyone went off to bed, leaving another question in Hino Saburo's mind: <What was so important that Rei went off in the dead of night?> There were so many questions: Why had Rei come to America? Why was crippled Mrs. Chiba so important? And, above all, how could she have had Deja without his knowledge? For Deja had to have born before Rei had left Japan. That was one thing that his son-in-law did not mention in his story. Perhaps it was out of propriety, but . . .
At last he fell asleep. He dreamt of his wife. It should have been a pleasant dream; there were no nightmarish images, and his wife was as she was when they were courting, not wasted as she was at the end. But he woke feeling unrested, and uneasy. Hino Saburo was much too world-wise to let himself believe in omens. But he had noticed that when he dreamed of his wife, some change was likely to follow, some unexpected event would disrupt his life.
He would have rather slept in. But he appeared at breakfast, where Deja mentioned she was going to practice along with Michiru and the talented daughter Michiru's partner had had by the Frenchman. Titania was being mentioned in some of the Japanese papers now. He understood that this was something important to Deja, even if she did not possess the rare talent of the others. So Hino Saburo accompanied Deja and her parents as they set out for another visit to the mansion.
The "practice" was more of an informal recital this day. Rei and her family were not the only visitors to the mansion this morning. Some were neighbors; more were some of the old Mercurius bunch who had worked with Umino and Suuri when Mercurius was small enough to fit in the basement. There were actually enough people to form something like a crowd, even at one end of the enormous main room.
Nevertheless, Rei noticed that Usagi was slipping away. Hotaru was pushing her chair, which made no noise. Rei thought idly, <Hotaru is using her silence powers> as she herself began to slip back. Rei caught the eyes of Deja. She expected her daughter might be disappointed that she was leaving, or perhaps put it down to having to mind little Tomiko-chan. Instead, Rei suspected she saw understanding in her daughter's eyes.
Rei could not read her father's eyes; they were closed. He was asleep. <Did Usagi or Naru put him to sleep? Or is he just bored?>
Bigger questions than that were waiting. As soon as she was clear of the crowd, Rei made briskly for the elevator. Hotaru was waiting. Usagi was slumped, eyes closed. As soon as the doors closed and they started up, Rei asked, "Are you falling asleep?"
Usagi answered without looking up. "No, but I'm tired. Reading your father was very difficult."
Rei had exhausted her courtesy for the time being. Instead of offering the sympathy she felt, she asked her next question. "Why has he really come?"
Usagi answered, "As he told you. He does not want to be a stranger."
"Does he suspect--"
"No," said Usagi, bringing up her face and looking into Rei's eyes. "He does not really believe in the senshi. Especially the stories from here."
Rei laughed, not in a happy way. "So, the old pirate suspects nothing. I should have known. If he suspected the truth, he would be busy working to gain advantage from it." The doors opened; while Hotaru rolled Usagi out of the elevator, Rei took a moment to take out a tissue and blot her eyes. She took a bit longer than she wished; Usagi and Hotaru were staring at her when she finished.
"Why are you crying, Auntie?" asked Hotaru, politely, respectfully.
"Yes. Why?" repeated Usagi, with some urgency.
Rei considered dissembling for a moment, but only a moment. Usagi could read hearts well, even without using her special powers, and nothing stung Hotaru worse than a lie. So she answered: "It is so difficult being with my father . . . So many things I want to say, so many questions, and yet . . . I cannot." Rei caught sight of Chibi-Usa, as she always thought of her, through the nursery door, tending an infant. That brought another thought. "Should I tell him? Now, before . . . ?" Rei went to the rail and looked down. Her father still lolled in sleep while Michiru and the girls performed.
Hotaru rolled Usagi away, neither of them saying anything. Rei spent a few a few moments looking at her father down below. Then she went to the nursery, to check on Tomiko-chan and to rejoin Usagi. But Usagi was busy with her twins, and there was a neighbor, someone who did not know, there with her own baby, and the older Basque woman who looked after Michiru and Haruka's children. So there would be no more said of the problem she had with her father.
Luna was also there, probably hoping that the latest charms would keep Celeste from shapechanging, or at least keep people from noticing her . . .
Rei glanced at her watch, and did a mental calculation. She guessed that Mr. Chu must be somewhere near Hawaii now. No leis waiting for him, though. There would be police waiting for him in China, though, and perhaps some time in jail there.
She picked up Tomiko-chan.
Rei was rubbing linament into Yuuichirou's back when Deja walked into the room. Rei was about to remind her daughter of her manners when she saw how serious Deja's face was.
Deja walked up to the bed, covered with towels to keep it clean, and asked, lowly, "Are you hurt badly, otousan?"
"Not too badly," said Yuuichirou, stretching out a hand to pat her. "But my students are getting a little too good." Yuuichirou saw most of his martial-arts students on Saturday; that is why he had missed the little recital.
Deja kissed him, and then looked up at Rei, who was astride her husband's back. "Am I the reason you and Grandfather don't get along?"
Rei sucked in her breath. She had not expected this question, now. "No."
Yuuichirou said, "Your grandfather loves you very much, Deja-chan. He is always asking me about you."
"Then why do you never talk with each other, okasan?"
Rei kneaded Yuuichirou's back for a moment or two before trying to answer. "We haven't spoken much for a very long time, Deja-chan."
Rei hesitated again, but Deja was not going to let it go. "He was never around much while okasan was alive. And after . . . after okasan died, I saw him only a few times a year. Less, as I got older." She shook her head. "So, you see, your grandfather did not stay away because of you. He stayed away long before you came along, Deja-chan."
Yuuichirou spoke after Rei and Deja did not. "Being gone all the time isn't a big deal in Japan, you know. Especially for an important man like your grandfather. And I think . . ." He put his hand under Deja's chin. "I think maybe it was hard for him to see your motherbecause she is so like her mother. And you are a lot like your mother, you know?" Yuuichirou ruffled his daughter's hair. "But like I told you, he loves you very, very much. I think maybe he is very sorry he did not meet you before."
"Yes," said Rei, with a slight crack in her voice. "Maybe he is sorry." She climbed off Yuuichirou and the bed, knelt down, and embraced and kissed Deja. "It has been a long day. We are for sleep soon, and I think you should be, too."
Deja kissed her mother and then her father, and then walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Resuming her position, Rei spent several minutes kneading Yuuichirou's battered body before asking, "Do you think he is really sorry? After all this time?"
Yuuichirou shrugged, rather stiffly. "Why not? You saw how proud he looked when Deja was playing today, didn't you?"
After a moment, Rei said "Yes . . . but I didn't notice then."
"Maybe he didn't notice how sorry he was . . . until now."
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