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  Fuck, Lan thinks, pulling out his phone and bringing up the text app. He thumbs Reo's thread and starts typing.
  
I need one of the attendants to meet us down at the bottom of the lane. Send.
  
He looks over at Saya as she peers out the window at he world going by. “You were probably right, you know,” he says. She turns to look at him, raising a brow.
  
“About what?”
  
“Me driving. I probably could have handled it, but it's.. different with a passenger.” Saya nods and opens her clutch, fishing the valet ticket out and holding it to him before curling her hand back hesitantly.
  
“Wait, that's the first thing you think of? The safety of the passenger?” Her hands drop to her lap as she looking out the window again, “What about all these people? The walkers, the drivers.”
  
Saya places the ticket back in her bag and closes it, turning and looking at him seriously. “Lan, how often do you drive after drinking? And be honest.”
  
Lan opens his mouth, but hesitates. It wasn't something he was even remotely proud of, but.. “A.. handful of times. Less than the fingers on my right hand.” He holds them up towards her, and her frown deepens.
  
“It's.. always here, when I come home. When I rent a car.” None of this was alleviating her of her disappointment in his declaration.
  
Lan sighs and rubs his forehead. “With the exception of this trip, I usually take the train. I could drive, but that would take forever, and you heard Reo, they don't.. trust me with money, so I couldn't refill the gas..”
  
“And I'd get home, and it would be pleasant for a while.. and I'd find a way to drink. And.. we argue. We fight. And I want to get out, so I take a drive around the neighborhood.”
  
Saya was quiet for a long while, studying him enough to make him start to begin to sweat. She sighs and turns back towards the front of the car. Lan's phone chimes with a new text.
  
He stares at Saya's profile, wishing he could read minds, but knowing exactly what hers would say. He wasn't a stranger to disappointment. When she doesn't speak, he turns his phone, looking at the response.
  
Why? Reo writes, I thought you had that stupidly expensive rental.
  
He taps out a quick response: I've been drinking, so we're taking a taxi. She's wearing heels, can't you get someone with a golf cart to meet us? Send.
  
“I'm sorry,” he says, looking at his phone as it turns it over in his hands. “I didn't consider.. I didn't think.. I don't think when I'm.. drinking and angry. Which happens a lot here in Hiroshima.”
  
“I'm learning your tells, you know,” Saya replies, not turning to look at him as she speaks. “When you're sober, when you're in withdrawal, when you're on Xanax, and when you've already started drinking.”
  
She looks over at him, her expression a thin line across her mouth. “You have habits. You've told me that much. But if you ever, ever get behind a wheel after drinking, we're done. Absolutely done. I'll leave, and avoid you in Ota, that'll be it.”
  
“There's no negotiating this, Lan. What's done is done, thank God you've never had some sort of accident before now. But this is a non-starter for me. Are we clear?”
  
Lan nods, nods emphatically at her, “Yes, yes, I understand. I-i-i-it..” he stumbles over his own words as he finally gets it out. “You're right, it's.. egregious. And.. I'm sorry.” Lan's phone chimes, but he ignores it until Saya's expression softens a little.
  
“Alright. I'm keeping the valet ticket on me for the rest of the trip.”
  
“Yeah, yeah, I.. okay. Train, taxi, walking. Okay.”

--

  The taxi pulls up to what looks like a simple iron gate at the end of a lane. The residential overlook they were parked on showed a slow sunset over downtown Hiroshima. Saya thought it gorgeous.
  Lan leans up to the driver and speaks to him in Japanese: “Do you mind waiting here? The man there has the money for the fare.” Lan points at an older gentleman climbing out of a golf cart to unlock and slide the barrier to the side.
  
“Come on,” he tells Saya, who opens her door to follow Lan as he does the same. She watches across the car's roof as the older gentleman smiles at Lan and both embrace in a hug.
  
“Eiji, it's wonderful to see you again,” Lan tells him in Japanese. The smile doesn't fade as the older man hugs Lan back, nodding as he steps back to look at him from head to toe, clapping his arm.
  
“Too skinny, but you look alright. If you're staying for dinner, Miho will make sure you eat more than your weight,” he laughs.
  
“Reo called ahead, about the fare?” Eiji nods and bends down to the taxi window, holding out a few bills for the ride. Standing back up, he looks over at the woman that came along with Lan curiously.
  
With nowhere to turn around, the taxi begins to carefully reverse, turning into a residential driveway and returning the way he came.
  
“Eiji, this is my friend, Miss Saya Travis,” he continues in Japanese, stepping over towards Saya and motioning back to Eiji, in English: “This is the family's groundskeeper, Hisakawa Eiji. He's taken care of the place for.. quite a long time.”
  
The older man steps over and takes Saya's hand in both of his, bowing low to her, and she returns the motion in kind. “A pleasure to see Lan with friend,” he says.
  
His English wasn't the best, but she chuckles and looks over at Lan. “Friend. Yes.” She turns back to Eiji, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Hisakawa-san.” she says in her limited knowledge of greetings.
  
He smiles wider at her use of his language, then pats her hand before letting go. “No, no, Eiji okay. Just Eiji.”
  
Saya glances at Lan as if looking for his approval, and he just shrugs, “He's never cared much for formalities, so..” She nods as Eiji turns and beckons them towards the opened gate, motioning to the golf cart.
  
“Come, we go up to the house,” he says.

--

  Saya and Lan walk side by side behind Eiji as she leans over, murmuring to him. “How did he know to be here? And the taxi fare?
  Lan taps his front pocket where his phone resides. “I texted Reo on the way here, since you didn't want me driving.” Saya nods, he continues, “and.. apparently I am blocked from using the bar at the hotel, as well.”
  
He gives her a lopsided 'sorry' smile, “I told him I had been drinking, and I guess he figured out how. You don't have to worry about the bill for the drinks, either. Everything is paid for by the group, but it's all in your name now.”
  
Lan mimes signing his name in the air. “No more accepting my autograph on a receipt, basically.”
  
Saya nods as they cross the threshold past the gate, Eiji starts pulling it closed. “They seem to care about you, Lan.” She motions to Eiji, “him, Reo, even your father. Even if you don't think so.”
  
The groundskeeper clicks the gate closed and stands by the driver's side, motioning for Saya to sit in the back, which she does, Lan joining her. The cart whines as he puts in in reverse, turning around, flicking it into drive and starting up what looks like a rather long lane up through a densely forested area.
  
“I know they do. I mean.. even Aiko.. we don't get along, both she and Reo think father is lenient on me, and they're not wrong. I'm an exploitative asshole, I admit it.” Lan leans back, glancing out the other side of the cart as it hums along.
  
“The therapy I go to.. I'd like to think it helps, but I'm not sure. I'm honest with him.” He turns back to look at Saya. “I'm.. as honest with him as I am with you.”
  
But it doesn't stop your habits, does it?” She replies.
  
He inhales through his nose and breathes out slowly. "They want to send me away. All of them." Lan waves a hand towards where they were going, shaking his head. "My family, my therapist.. to some sort of rehab."
  
"But when you don't care, and don't want to quit; when you're scared of the outside world, what exactly do they expect?" he asks, not expecting an answer – not that she had one to give.
  
Eventually, a building comes into view, a very traditional looking house with a few modern looking black sedans parked in the circular driveway. It's only when they crest the hill that it levels out that Saya realizes just how large the Satake home is.
  
It's not a home. It's a damn compound, she thinks.

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About the author

drac

Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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