When he arrived at his brother’s home he was greeted in the drive by Eri. He had called ahead to let them know he was coming and as they walked toward the house the wife of his brother remained silent. He thought perhaps his arrival was a disappointment to her, but he did not question it. Kin was a good man and Tationy was a lovely woman. It was not wrong for Eri to be concerned about both. As they stepped inside he brushed the snow off himself and placed his bag on the floor. Stepping further into the home he looked around casually. It was not at all like he expected. He had been invited to join them for the holidays every year since they moved to America, but he never once visited.
“Eri, have you seen Kazuma’s shoes and socks he took them off again. I swear he does this on pur…” Tationy’s voice was halted the moment her eyes focused on him.
“Papa Yoshi,” Kazuma’s little voice spoke out as he tilted his head to look at Tadayoshi.
As much as he wanted to take in how Tationy looked completely from head to toe the hard stare she gave him spoke volumes, “Tationy could you show Tadayoshi to a room please?”
She seemed hesitant. At first she did not respond, but eventually nodded her head as she turned on her heels and began to move toward the stairs. Grabbing up his bag he followed closely behind as Eri lifted Kazuma into her arms. He understood that Kyo and the others were out getting a Christmas tree, which left just Tationy and Eri along with Kazuma at the house.
It was almost excruciating walking the stairs and through the hall without a single word. She would not even look at him. He knew he had messed up, but how badly was only evident when she opened the door to one of the bedrooms and turned to face him. She seemed angry and sad. “If you need anything…” She turned to leave, stopping only when he spoke.
“Please stay.” The sigh she released from her mouth sounded annoyed as she turned to look at him. He realized as they stood silently staring at each other that he really was not good at this. Why was it so hard? He had so many things he wanted to say and even more he wanted to ask, “Did you and Kin sleep together?” It was too late, her lips pursed and the cold hard stare she gave him said he foolishly asked the wrong thing.
“Why do you care what I do? You could have slept with me. I wanted you to. I tried to get you to take me home. What does it matter who I do? Maybe I slept with Kin, maybe I didn’t. That is none of your business.”
“I apologize. You are right, it is not my business. I want it to be though.”
“You can’t have your cake and eat it to Tadayoshi. You either want to be with me or we are spending a year apart. I am tired of you being hot and cold.”
“Has that been how I have been coming off?”
“Do you really have to ask?”
His head bowed as he considered her words. Tadayoshi had never thought that their time apart was going to be taken in such a way, “Your perception of the situation with Kin?”
“I get it, you and Zen need me to be babysat so I do not say or do anything that embarrasses the Kari.”
“No that is not it. Well maybe on Zen’s part that was it, but that is not why I….” He sighed, “I do not know how this ended up so wrong. Zen mentioned you and Kin often talked while you were at the Kari Foundation. You would even have lunch together. I thought, seeing you are close in age that you might be more comfortable sharing things with him then you would be with me. The time apart, I sincerely thought I was doing what was right for you. You have a lot of healing and I did not want to be in the way of that.”
He noticed how she brought her hand to her forehead as she spoke, “I am so angry with you right now.”
Concern knitted across his features, “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I am just tired. I need to go and finish helping Eri,” She responded as she took a step toward the door.
When she wobbled he instinctively grabbed for her. “I am fine,” She insisted as she tried to pull away from him.
“No you are not. We should go to the hospital.”
“Don’t act like you care.”
“I do care.”
Slapping him in the face would have felt the same as her words. “You are right. I have treated you like you were nothing but Tearra’s vessel. I have given little thought to how you feel in all of this. I am here because I want to fix that, if you will let me.” Her body stilled from trying to get away and he took that as a minor success, “Please tell me what is wrong with you?”
At first there was hesitation from her, but eventually she did respond. “When I was pregnant with Kazuma I was told I have anemia. There was a point when I was really sick. It feels like that; tired, hard to breath, but this is the first time I have felt dizzy.”
“Have you been sleeping and eating properly?”
“Not very well on either. Don’t worry, I just need a months worth of sleep and some iron-rich food.”
“Are you certain?”
“Don’t fuss over me.”
“Alright,” He responded reluctantly letting her go even though he was concerned she would lose her balance again. “Will you stay and talk with me, for just a bit.”
He could not tell what her response might be as she turned to face him. Admittedly, he had a hard time reading her much more so then he had any other person, “Talk.”
Leaning against the bed he kept his eyes fixed on her and it was only after several scrutinizing minutes of silence he finally responded with a sigh, “This did not turn out how I planned.”
“What exactly did you plan?”
“It was not really planning so much as thinking about it in my head over and over again. I thought I would have the courage to do what my sister suggested, but in the end I was not even brave enough to do that.”
“I had a layover in Spain and visited Nala. Probably thirty years too late.”
“It is never too late.”
He considered that they were no longer talking about Nala, “I am glad you think so.”
However brief, there was a moment he saw a flash of something in her eyes. It was far too quick to be recognizable and her question distracted him from mauling over what it might be, “How many siblings do you have?”
He considered how to answer that, “My father had six children. There are only four of us still alive.”
“I am sorry.”
He waved his hand dismissively, “I really did not come here to discuss them. I want to talk about us.”
“You wanted a year apart, there is no us.”
Rubbing his face in frustration, “I don’t want that. I thought I was doing what was right for you. Giving you space and time to heal. Had I thought for even a moment you would think that I was not sincere in my words, I never would have insisted we take the break. I would have ….. I should have just kissed you instead of trying to explain myself.”
With a sigh he shook his head, “My sister seems to think that a kiss solves everything. That you will know exactly how I feel…”
How quickly she closed the distance was evident when his words were muffled by her mouth as it settled upon his lips. Tadayoshi moved his hand away from the railing of the bed to settle on the small of her back. He told himself he had one shot at this, if his kiss did not tell her how he felt, then nothing he said would even matter. She had taken the initiative. He should not have expected anything less of her. Tationy was the one always trying to move them forward and he was the one always pulling back. He could see that and understood why she would think he did not want her. The kiss ended far to quickly as she stepped back from him that silence once again engulfed the room.
All he could think about was how he probably disappointed her. She must have thought he was thinking of Tearra. He was willing to admit for a split second she did come into his mind, but he tried to push her out of it and keep his mind focused on Tationy and the way her mouth tasted. “I almost had sex with Kin.” Tadayoshi always expected that was a possibility in their year apart, but those were definitely not the words he wanted to hear. “I need more.”
Controlling his anger he asked, “Are you talking about a physical relationship?”
“Partly.” Tadayoshi waited for her to explain, “My parents were dysfunctional and that is as polite as I can put it. You are hot one minute and cold the next. It is very simple, if you want to be with me you can’t keep me at arms-length. I do not have the time or the energy to waste on any man that is not committed one hundred percent. I asked Kin if he thought you would move in if I asked you and he said no. I got Osa asking me what is going on between us. He wants to know if I love you, if you love me. If I love Kin. He asked me if I would ask Kin to stay with us just because I seem happier with him around. This is confusing him. You and I are all over the papers and I feel like crap, every day. Hiko is gone, Kazuma and I miss him so much, and the only thing that made sense in this whole nightmare was you, but I am not your queen. So, I don’t matter.”
He rushed forward placing his hands on either side of her face, “You matter, so much more than you will ever understand. I waited my whole life for you.”
“You were waiting for Tearra.”
“I was that is true, but you are one and the same. I cannot ignore you and only see her. I know that. I have just been waiting so long. I thought, foolishly that when we came together that everything would just work out. I knew it would not be simple or quick, but I was hopeful. I wish I would not have run away that day on the subway. Perhaps if I stayed and had spoken to you things would be different now. I am not good at this. Please be patient with me.”
As he looked into Tationy’s eyes waiting for her reply he realized they were no longer alone. How long he had been standing there was unknown so Tadayoshi reached for Tationy’s hand directing her to stand to his side instead of between them. The tall lanky body of Kin Kari stared him down. That silence had violently returned and as much as he wanted to look upon Tationy to see her reaction to this moment he knew that allowing his eyes to leave Kin would be asking for death. “Is this how it is?”
Tadayoshi had realized that Tationy was about to speak when her posture changed so he spoke up before she could, “It is.”
“Don’t think I won’t challenge you uncle. I am more than willing to take everything you have and your queen.”
“I have no doubts you would try.”
“Hiko’s failures will not be mine.”
“There are few among the Kari that could succeed at facing me, you are one of them. I am not delusional Kin. I am well aware of your strength, but don’t think I will not answer a challenge.”
Their eyes were locked and the intensity of the moment sent a chill up Tadayoshi’s spine. Most people had a healthy amount of respect and fear for Tadayoshi Kari. However, this was the first time he looked in the eyes of another and saw only a challenge.
The young man before him had worked hard to get where he was. Being Maiba among the Kari meant that many did not take him seriously and others simply hated him. He had to deal with harassment, beatings, and more than a few times there were those among the Kari that felt the need to put him in his place. Perhaps they thought if they broke him it would set an example for any other Maiba born Kari. Those things, only made him more dangerous.
Kin had not spoken the words, but the way Kin’s eyes shifted toward Tationy said that she was the one with all the power. If at any time she told Kin to destroy him, he would without any hesitation. She was the only reason Kin was holding back. Even though he hated to admit it, Tadayoshi could see Kin’s feelings reflected in that single glance. He did not allow his eyes to linger, turning quickly and leaving the two. His departure did not surprise him. When he turned and opened his mouth to speak to Tationy he realized that she seemed disappointed, “If you want to be with him, I will understand if you chase after him.”
“What a foolish thing to say when you came all this way to get me back. I am so tired of you placating me. Do you seriously think saying things like that makes me happy? It pisses me off so much when you do that …. urgh,” She growled, “Just be honest for a change.”
Tadayoshi bowed his head, “You are the only reason he is not dead. Is that honest enough for you?”
Her voice sounded like a whisper, “Yes.”
A moment after she responded she swayed, “Are you alright?”
“I need to sit down,” She managed to say, but did not make it to the chair or the bed before she collapsed. Tadayoshi barely caught her. He called out for help between saying her name. Her cheeks were flush, her body cold, and she was not responding to his calls.
The first up the stairs and into the room was Kin followed closely behind was Kyo, “What happened?”
There were several brief discussions about how to manage the situation, which ultimately led to them taking her to the hospital rather than calling an ambulance. Due to distance and the amount of time it would take the first responders to actually get to the house, it was faster.
Tadayoshi looked up as the door to Tationy’s room opened and in entered Kyo along with Osa, “We got you a coffee Papa Yoshi.”
“Thank you,” He said as they set the coffee on the table and both took seats.
“Has she been awake today?”
Kyo’s question was met with a yawned response, “Sorry.” He quickly apologized, “She was awake for about twenty minutes.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“He said maybe later today she will be released. Tomorrow at the latest.”
“A week in the hospital,” Kyo paused, “I imagine she is pretty annoyed with herself.”
“She is. I told her she did not ruin anything, but she seems to think that Christmas was destroyed.”
Kyo laughed, “Eri and I were actually rather grateful for the excitement. Most years she just goes through the motions. Spends the entire month baking just for no one to show up. She liked having the house filled with people and she thinks Tationy is delightful.”
“How is Kin?”
“Worried. I talked to him this morning. He is trying to focus on work now that he is back in Aslann and with Tationy still being in the hospital he is not getting much done.”
The sound of the television being turned on, told Tadayoshi that Osa was trying to distract himself from the conversation. “Your son is a fine Kari man.”
“Surprised to hear you say that, all things considering.”
“Had Hiko been half the Kari your son is,” Tadayoshi paused, “Well I imagine things would have turned out differently if that were the case.”
As Tadayoshi looked upon Kazuma he was acutely aware that his brother’s eyes were on him, “Do you remember when Hiko was that small?”
“When Kin was little like that he was always getting into things and scaring his mother. It was worse with Erobus though. We were so nervous we were going to break him. By the time we got to Baito, it was so much easier.”
“Ako took care of Hiko. I,” Tadayoshi pursed his lips, “I made a lot of mistakes. Have a lot of regrets.”
“What will you do when you and Tationy get back to Aslann.”
“With the announcement tomorrow things are going to get a bit hectic. The eyes of Aslann are going to be on us more than ever. I am worried about the stress on Tationy. Having her end up in the hospital again because of her anemia and exhaustion will take its toll on her. I still feel that moving too quickly can be an issue, but I have decided I will be staying with her and the boys.”
“So, you will definitely not be spending a year apart?”
“No, we will not. Though I am not sure how prepared I am for such a big move. Aslann was in an uproar over a single dance, I can only imagine what they will turn us living together into.”
“Thankfully, with the announcement the two of you can play it off for a period and say that Tationy and the boys did not want to be alone in that big house. That it was better for them to be with family during such a tragic time.”
“That was my thought.”
There was a pause in the conversation that lingered for some time, “About my son….”
“I do not intend to hurt him.”
“I know, it is actually not about that. Though I must say I am thankful that your intent was not to push them closer and then use his body to reincarnate Kazuma. As honored as I would be for my son to be the vessel of our God, it is a death sentence with his Maiba blood.”
“You thought that was my intent?”
“Well you have spent your whole life devoting yourself to the Kari and preparing yourself for Tearra. It is not unrealistic to think that you might be willing to do anything, go to any length to ensure that Tearra and Kazuma are reunited.”
“The thought actually had not crossed my mind, though Kin would make a fine vessel for Kazuma. Unfortunately, you are right. There are those among the Kari that would see his Maiba blood as being unworthy.” Tadayoshi paused his eyes shifted away from his brother as his head hung slightly, “I am sorry I never stood up for you when you brought Eri home to meet father. I should have said something.”
Kyo shook his head, “It is alright. Nala had taken off, Katsu’s behavior got worse, and Sorano died. Then, there was me showing up with a Maiba, put you in the worst possible situation. I have moments where I feel quite somber when I think of the outcome you were forced into because of the actions and events surrounding your siblings.”
“Still, I was your big brother and the future Elder of the Kari. I should have supported you.”
Waving his hand dismissively Kyo chuckled, “I think you taking that berating from Eri afterwards was support enough. All those things she said to you, she had wanted to say to father. You just stood there and took them every last word and never once interrupted her. You are the only Kari man I know that would stand there and take that. Regardless, it is in the past, we have all grown since then. Things are as they are, and we are still Kari. Want some martial advice from your little brother?”
“I don’t know, is this martial advice from the happily married?”
“Well I am happily married and Eri has not killed me after thirty years.”
Kyo laughed, “My brother the ‘straight man’. I swear growing up with you was like an Abbott and Costello routine.”
“Who is Abbott and Costello?” Osa asked.
The two Kari brothers stared at Osa in mock surprise. “Kids these days,” Kyo said jokingly.
“Abbott and Costello were an American comedy duo during the forties and fifties,” Tadayoshi explained.
“Were they funny?”
Osa shrugged his shoulders, “Alright.”
Tadayoshi noticed that Osa was once again distracted with the television, “You wanted to say something about Kin?”
“Yes actually. Eri misses him quite a bit, I was curious if it is your intent to send him here when this move into the American markets happens.”
“I do not know yet. Zen and I have discussed it a few times. Erobus could do Kin’s job, so having him come out here is only necessary if we intend for him to run the company.”
“Is that even a consideration?”
“It is. Though we have also thought about how useful he might be in the European and Asian markets as well. We are trying to look at the long-term picture. He is well versed and quite equipped to handle any assignment we send him on. Running the company when we make the move into the American market is also a possibility. Do you want Zen and I to consider it further?”
“I only bring it up because Eri misses him. I do as well.” Tadayoshi looked at Kazuma. It was more to avoid looking at his brother. He was not certain what words he could further offer on the matter and he really did not wish to talk about sons any longer. Both of his were gone. His brothers lively voice was serious and subtle, “Kin told me to tell you that Tationy has never had anyone that listens to her. Don’t be afraid to ask her questions and get her talking, even if you do not like what she is saying. She needs it.” Standing and stretching Kyo added, “As for that martial advice. Marriage is not always fifty-fifty. Some days you will wake up and may have to give ninety percent and your spouse will give ten. Other days you may wake up and give twenty-five percent and your spouse will have to put in seventy-five. Don’t expect there to be equal amounts divided each day because that is not realistic.”
Tadayoshi understood what his brother was saying. If a relationship was fifty-fifty that meant it was about give and take. If she gets something, then he should get something. If she does something, he should get to do something. If he pleases her, she should have to please him. Relationships like those are about expectations and not acceptance. “Thank you, I will keep all of that in mind. Though, she might not want to marry me.”
Kyo rubbed the back of his neck, “Just take your time and enjoy each other. Every day you should learn something new and grow closer. When the time is right for more, you both will take that step together or apart, depending on where your path leads.”
Squinting his eyes a moment he looked toward his brother who was standing near the door, “Did you and Eri ever considered taking the journey apart?”
The always joking Kyo responded, “There are some days, I am amazed she does not bash my head in with a frying pan.” With a shrug he opened the door, “If she does not smother you in your sleep. Then, you know it is love.”
The door closed behind Kyo leaving Tadayoshi with Tationy, Kazuma, and Osa. He sighed, his mind thinking on his brother’s words until his attention was pulled toward Osa who was laughing.
“What is so funny?”
“My father told me this quote once by this guy called Gandhi. Where there is love there is life. It makes sense now.”
Tadayoshi opened his mouth, but quickly decided that he did not have the energy to walk through this conversation with Osa. Shaking his head he sighed, slightly amused, as he thought how unexpected and exciting this week had been for him.
To Be Continued