Saya meanders her way through clothing and bookstores, she didn't think much of the former that often, and much more about the latter. Even a new bookstore smelled different than the outside, used book stores even more so. What was on her mind today was Lan and his offer. Conscious or not, she stands in front of the travel guides, most in Japanese, of course, but a few in English.
Saya plucks out a small guide of places to go and see around Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial, that would be a must, but she was just as fascinated by Itsukushima. The floating torii gate. Saya knew the basics, that they mark the entrance of sacred places, but she also knew that it was somewhat encouraged that should an individual or family believe that their fortune came from deities, donating the funds for a torii was rather common, especially in Kyoto. They had been so dense that slivers of sunlight could barely pour in.
At most, Saya herself had a torii keychain in a desk somewhere at home, a souvenir from one of her first shrines, though she couldn't remember which.
She thumbs through the guide to see museum after museum, parts, even a castle. They even had a zoo down there. When was the last time she had been to a zoo? She wondered.
Obviously there was plenty for her to do there, even over just a weekend. Saya runs her thumb over the cover, thinking. It wasn't the place so much as who she would be going with that left her uncertain.
She places the book back on the shelf and steps back out onto the street.
Reo rides in the back of the sleek black car on his way home. Both he and his driver were silent as the muffled sound of rain tak-tak-tak on the roof.
He had caved last night after a few hours to Lan's threat of calling Father. He didn't like it, but it was only two plane tickets anyway. The thought that nagged at Reo was Lan neither confirmed nor denied that Saya was actually coming. He said he had asked her, but when Reo pressed for an answer, his brother was evasive.
He sits up once he remembers the one question he didn't ask: where they were staying. Lan had no money, and most certainly couldn't expect Saya to pony up for a hotel room on a teacher's salary. Idiot. Which only left one option:
They're going to stay at Father's compound. He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. Leaning forward, he talks to his driver, “Take the next exit and turn us around, we're not going home yet. Take us to.. my old house.”
The driver nods and confirms as the car starts to veer to the next lane.
Reo himself made enough money that he could live on his own in comfort, even his assistant lived in the same building albeit on a lower floor. Reo saw enough of both him and Father at work to have to suffer them constantly at home.
Mother would also be there, and both would be overjoyed at seeing Lan in any capacity, even more so in the company of a woman. Reo had his misgivings about her being a white woman, but neither his brother nor Saya were in any sort of relationship more than acquaintances.
What bothers Reo is the state of the house. Mother's caregivers were certainly capable, but there were rooms in the old house that were little more than decorative in how they were cleaned. His family entertains guests whenever they can, but in this case they would have no idea about them arriving.
Their father wouldn't have minded much if they showed up unexpected, but his mother would likely snatch his earlobe off and give him The Look. Why was I not made aware of this? Her glare would accuse.
The car turns and gets back on the highway in the opposite direction they were traveling. Reo will not let himself be subject to that look of hers because of Lan, whether they decide to come to Hiroshima or not.
Reo's car pulls through the compound's gate as both men and women shuffle out with umbrellas to flank the vehicle. He always thought the custom was ostentatious, but that's what affluence means. “Don't mind the door,” he says to the driver, who nods, probably relieved he doesn't have to step out in the rain. He does motion to the assistants towards Reo's door and one walks over to the door as Reo steps out.
Not one drop of rain reaches any part of Reo as the employee holds the umbrella over his door. “Welcome back, sir.” he says.
“Who is home?” Reo asks, closing the door behind him and buttoning his suit jacket again. The employee's eyes flick up in thought before replying, “Just your mother, sir, no guests today, nor is your father home yet.”
Reo nods and turns towards the entrance of the main house, each of the caretakers bending to bow at him as he passes by. Customs, he thinks.
Once they're under the veranda, the man that held the umbrella over Reo turns and closes it, shaking it vigorously and wrapping it tight. He steps forward and pulls open the door for Reo.
Ten feet in, his mother, Satake Aiko stands. Impeccably dressed as always, her arms crossed over her chest. As expected. Reo walks in and leans down to unlace his dress shoes, shifting out of them and into the slippers nearby, standing in front of his mother. “I'm home,” he announces.
“Welcome back,” she replies, but it sounds more like a where-have-you-been than anything. But it doesn't last long as she finally gives between their same-eyed stare and she places her hands on her son's shoulders.
“It's been too long, you really must come home more often.” she chides. Turning, she motions to one of her assistants who raise their hands up on front of Reo, who begrudgingly accepts as he is disrobed of his dress jacket. The others seem to know what to do next as they dart beside them as he follows his mother, leading them to the living room, Reo can hear the clinking of china placed on trays elsewhere.
“It's always lovely to see you, mother, you know that, but the Group keeps me busy. And I'm sure Father relays my well-being to you when he comes home.” Reo glances at his watch, it was still early afternoon, he'd prefer to be out of here before his father actually did come home.
Aiko slides open the doors to the living room, which betrays the house in its Western furniture. Two elegantly upholstered chairs face a dark wood coffee table with inlaid ivory, and a matching couch. His mother chooses the couch and pats the seat next to her.
Every damn time. He thinks, I'm too old for this. Reo chooses one of the singular chairs across from her, her disappointment creasing her brow momentarily. Behind them, a woman enters with a tea set, placing them soundlessly on the table between them. She holds the top as she pours an equal amount to each cup, plucking cup and saucer and holding it to Reo, the guest. Only after he accepts does she do the same for his mother.
Reo takes a sip in obligation and leans forward, setting it down on the table in front of him. She doesn't seem to mind as she sips herself, looking at her son.
“This is.. early in your monthly visit,” the last two words again seem spiteful, but he says nothing. “Which means you are here for something.” She squints her eyes at Reo, almost as if analyzing.
“And you haven't asked your father for it.” Reo's jaw clenches at somehow being readable, at least by her. God, I should have just booked hotel rooms while I was at it, he fumes.
She sets the cup onto the table, genuinely curious at this point. Her son was successful enough to do what he wanted. And if it was out of reach in some way, his father could grant it. But he's coming to me, she thinks. Why?
Silence was Toshio's tactic. The man could go minutes before the other party broke, Aiko preferred honey to vinegar. “Come now, Reo, you know I'd help you out with anything, within reason.”
Reo softens a bit at that, finally turning to look at his mother as his mouth opens, but his breath hitches. He closes his mouth. What on Earth is this boy going to say? She wonders. It's very rare that Reo could surprise her anymore.
“We..” he pauses, choosing his words carefully. “I have.. guests coming. And it's a last-of-the-minute thing, and they don't have any local reservations. So I thought..” He looks around, open palmed at the room they were in, but the message was clear: the rest of the house and its many guest rooms.
Usually Toshio was the one to ask these things, but again, he had come to her. She was no stranger to hosting guests; foreign, domestic, friends, family.
Family. She looks at him, who again won't meet her gaze. And there's only one person that can make Reo act like that, she confirms.
“Lan is coming, isn't he. When?” she asks.
Aiko does still feel a sense of pride when she can outwit the men in her life, Toshio and Reo alike. When she came into her own, many took her as another pretty face. It's interesting to see someone's reaction when they're caught off guard. And Reo was no different. It was plain to see on his face that he was blindsided that his mother had any idea, or that he had given any indication.
“H-How did you..?” he stammers, shaking his head, as much as she got a kick out of it, he was used to his mother's preternatural abilities, even if he couldn't explain them. “Yes, Lan is coming, for Mountain Day, remember? It's next weekend.” People in Hiroshima didn't give much thought to the holiday as most were near sea-level, and Fuji was a background set-piece.
“Father asked him to come, like he asks for all holidays, and for some reason, this year, he accepted.” Reo continues.
Aiko was silent, taking her son's news in, but she herself didn't understand. Lan hated it here. Lan hated Hiroshima. Her mind cycled through reasons: Why would he come for such a minor holiday? Toshio and Reo take care of his needs in Tokyo. They don't allow him money, and he doesn't do anything except.. exist. He doesn't dislike me, but he doesn't like me either. So why? The question truly baffled her as she gave up and finally asks Reo.
“Why? What is his reason for coming here? I don't mind in the least, but why now?”
Reo reaches down for his tea and drinks from it, as if stalling for time. Its only when his gloved hands place the saucer on the table does he reply.
“I said I was hosting guests.”
“Plural.” He states.
- a recovering disaster? / twitter: @rgdrac
apologies for everything about me, it might get better.
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